As Modern Pentathlon looks to evolve and engage new audiences, we spoke to The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) President Dr Klaus Schormann. He revealed that the inclusion of the obstacle discipline in the sport opens new doors and provides endless possibilities.
InsiderSport: Can you tell us about the significance of Obstacle being included in the Modern Pentathlon?
Dr Klaus Schormann: Modern Pentathlon is one of the oldest sports in the Olympic Games but it has been subject to constant evolution in the past three decades. The integration of Obstacle as a new discipline is the most ambitious innovation undertaken in the history of our sport.
As we look ahead to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, I am very excited to assure the entire Olympic community that we are integrating a youthful, urban and highly accessible sport that will benefit both Modern Pentathlon and the Games itself – fully respecting the legacy of Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
More than one billion people in 160 countries consume obstacle competition broadcasts, so the change means we are opening up our sport to a huge new fanbase. And that number will only increase in years to come as the number of competitions and participants grows with more and more nations being able to develop a Modern Pentathlon movement.
This will not only help increase the global participation in our sport, it will help grow participation rates in sport generally, creating healthier lifestyles for generations of young people.
What does the inclusion of Obstacle mean for potential sponsorships of the Modern Pentathlon?
The inclusion of Obstacle opens so many doors and provides endless possibilities for potential sponsors. Sponsors now have the opportunity to tap into one of the most popular, exciting and fastest growing sports on the planet, with access to millions of new fans and athletes around the world.
For example, there are more than 20 million obstacle course racers of all ages worldwide. Around 300 million people watch Adventure Race TV shows held in 90 countries globally. Added to that, by getting closer to Generation Z, potential sponsors will have the opportunity to be seen and be associated with the hundreds of millions of views on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.
How can Obstacle bring the Modern Pentathlon to a new audience?
Obstacle presents a whole new opportunity to tap into entertainment and mass participation markets. Now, young kids in and parks and playgrounds around the world can dream of competing in a future UIPM World Championships or the Olympic Games.
Because it is affordable, safe and accessible everywhere, Obstacle can become a foundation for sport and physical activity for young kids, in the same way as other sports like athletics and swimming. As a result, Obstacle will significantly broaden the number of potential athletes in our sport and make Modern Pentathlon more dynamic and more appealing to young audiences worldwide.
In terms of broadcasting, what does the deal with Obstacle mean for the Modern Pentathlon?
It means an opportunity to tap into bigger and newer markets outside of the traditional Modern Pentathlon strongholds. It will completely transform our sport on the field of play and on the broadcast into something incredibly exciting, engaging and more popular in a growing sea of competing events vying for consumer attention.
Given that already more than 160 countries televise Ninja Warrior or the original SASUKE, I have no doubt that we will be looking at one of the most popular and appealing sports on the Olympic programme, with some of the highest TV and social media ratings, and unlimited growth potential.
Of course, this will also help to advance the IOC’s ongoing efforts to modernise the Olympic sport programme to reach more fans in more places around the world.
What steps can the pentathlon take to maximise the inclusion of Obstacle, will we see increased short-form content and a further growing of social presence?
UIPM has already started to create tailored communications designed to help the global obstacle community find pathways into Modern Pentathlon, and National Federations are doing great work on the ground in their own countries.
We have already seen many examples of training videos creating a crossover point where the two communities are meeting, following the successful New Pentathlon Discipline Test Events in Turkey, Philippines, Italy and Poland that created a physical meeting point for Modern Pentathlon and Obstacle in 2022.
We fully intend to develop this connection on an ongoing basis online, giving audiences more access to exciting and inspiring content as the integration of Obstacle into Modern Pentathlon becomes formalised in 2023.
With the Paris Olympics also on the horizon, it’s an exciting time for anyone who follows UIPM on social media, and we are already seeing a diversification within our digital community, with more people, especially young people, engaging.