Boston based Spartan Race, Inc. announced today they acquired an option on Tough Mudder’s events in Canada, Germany, and The United Kingdom. According to a press release Spartan are working on “efforts to complete the acquisition and renewal of Tough Mudder’s US-based events and operations in the coming days”.
Spartan Race and Tough Mudder have been the reigning number 1 and 2 leaders in obstacle racing since the industry’s inception at the beginning of the decade. Tough Mudder was leading the way early on, with higher attendance numbers, higher profile sponsors, and overall public and media perception. Ask someone if they’d done a mud run, and the common response was “You mean like a Tough Mudder?”. Ask someone if they’d done a Spartan Race, and the answer was still very possibly “Is that like a Tough Mudder?” Both companies outlasted the initial bubble that burst in 2014, that sent many copycats away and continued on steadily for the next few years.
By 2017, Spartan had caught Tough Mudder with gradual growth, well produced events, and consistent messaging. On the other hand, Tough Mudder began to explore multiple new avenues in the hopes of getting some of Spartan’s audience. TM added several timed, competitive events, which seemed to go against their core values of teamwork and camaraderie. Additionally, Mudder added multiple media properties, that did not show return on investment. By the end of 2018, rumors spread of TM going out of business, with payments past due to vendors and athletes. Despite an initial rocky start in 2019, Tough Mudder appeared to have righted the ship. They announced a new president, dumped those media properties, and removed all prize money.
That new president (also named CEO in July) Kyle McLaughlin, made bringing Tough Mudder back to its roots a priority. “2019 was a big reset for us” he told Obstacle Racing Media on a recent podcast. The company has been operating on a a staff that is half the size as recent years. By most accounts, they’ve come through on their promise to engage the obstacle racing community first hand. With the new President mixing it up with customers on course and in the festival area, something that could not be said for his predecessors.
We got on a brief call with Joe Desena who told us “Tough Mudder will stay a separate event with separate branding” and that “Spartan will continue to expand it’s own competitive events with Spartan Race, Spartan Trail and the new DEKAFit“.
We reached out to Tough Mudder for comment today and look to receive a response soon. The complete press release is below.
Spartan Race announced the acquisition of an exclusive option to acquire Tough Mudder’s UK, Canadian, and German events today, as the first step in an effort to bring together a complete merger of the two obstacle course racing leaders.
Tough Mudder events in those countries would continue to be operated by the same team and under the same brand, to be a part of the larger Spartan family of brands and events. Tough Mudder associates and participants in the UK, Germany and Canada will be able to continue on with their Tough Mudder adventure.
“This is a goal we’ve had for some time,” said Joe De Sena, Spartan founder & CEO. “Tough Mudder UK, Canada & Germany bring a unique experience and putting the success of the two together strengthens our global mission of getting 100 million people off the couch.”
Under Spartan ownership, Tough Mudder UK, Canada and Germany races and events would focus on teamwork-based non-competitive festival events, leaving the competition to the Spartan side of the business.
“I look forward to creating a lasting partnership with Will and Guy as we seek to complete the merger,” De Sena said. “I’m excited about the prospect of what we can do together, as one team.”
Spartan will continue to work with Tough Mudder’s founders, Will Dean and Guy Livingstone, in efforts to complete the acquisition and renewal of Tough Mudder’s US-based events and operations in the coming days.
Update – Interview with Joe Desena 8:00pm EST