As the premier sponsor of the British triathlon between 2006 and 2008, and corporate partner since 2009, Tata Steel (formerly Corus) has encouraged the development of triathlon from the grassroots level through to potential Olympic and Paralympic champions.
Far from being a traditional sports sponsorship, the partnership has placed considerable emphasis on enabling broad participation in the sport and in so doing, unlocking its power as a force for good.
Tata Steel employees have been at the heart of the initiative throughout. So it made perfect sense to expand the sponsorship in 2010 to include an opportunity for Tata employees to experience a triathlon competition for themselves as part of the 2010 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship, London, presented by Tata Steel. And so the Tata Steel Triathlon Challenge was born.
Following a successful pilot event in 2010, the company announced a sprint triathlon race for 100 Tata employees in Europe to coincide with Tata Steel’s role as presenting partner of the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship event in London. The places were snapped up within minutes, with employees from all Tata Steel’s UK and European facilities eager to take part. Representatives from several other Tata businesses — Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Communications, Taj Hotels and Tata Global Beverages — also put themselves forward to compete.
“We wanted to give our own employees the chance to taste the thrill, pain, reward and satisfaction of triathlon,” explains Sarah Jolley, communications manager at Tata Steel. “It was also an opportunity for them to compete at the most prestigious triathlon event in the UK, if not the world, with the world’s best triathletes. The team was truly inspirational.” With many new to triathlon, participants formed training groups to prepare and motivate each other for the 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run that awaited them. A further 20 more experienced employees trained to compete in an Olympic distance race which doubles the length of each of the three stages.
And so on a wet August morning, Andrew Robb, currently chairman of Tata Steel in Europe, sounded the starter horn and Tata employees launched into the Serpentine Lake, onto the Hyde Park course and past iconic landmarks of Buckingham Palace, Wellington Arch and the Albert Memorial.
“I felt incredibly proud to represent Tata Steel at such a prestigious and important sporting event,” reflects Richard Potts, vessels operations engineer at Tata Steel in Scunthorpe. “Having never competed in triathlon before 2010, I decided to step up to Olympic distance in 2011 and enjoyed the training and the competition. The atmosphere over the weekend was incredible, especially as it was the Olympic test event with the world’s best triathletes competing.”
Mark Carrington, a structural engineer from Tata Steel’s Thrybergh Bar Mill facility, agreed. “It made you proud to be a Tata employee.”
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for employees. It brought together men and women from across the business to compete in front of huge crowds, international press and widespread company branding. Many have been inspired to organise races at their local sites and within their communities, helping us further develop triathlon as a sport for all,” concludes Ms Jolley.
An early start on the path to fitness
Events at Scunthorpe, Teesside, Corby, Birmingham, Rotherham, Swansea and Mold are supported by locally based Tata Steel employees who are encouraged to volunteer. Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the event, from welcoming and registering the schools, supporting and directing the children on poolside and fitting bikes and helmets, to marshalling the course, and handing out medals at the finish line.
In 2012 there will be 24 Tata Kids of Steel events across the UK, many close to Tata Steel manufacturing and distribution sites, including new events in Workington and Belfast, and a growing pool of volunteers eager to make a positive contribution to their local community.