Commentary

Iditarod future

Timberland

Of Iditarod sponsors past/Craig Medred photo

DENVER – With another Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race done, more Iditarod sponsors departed, and another yuge Iditaord money-making idea gone bust, it’s time to talk about what ails Alaska’s Last Great Race.

And what better time could there be for this discussion than in a time when Alaskans and many, many others deserve a break from ever-escalating COVID-19 fears.

Rabid Iditarod fans can stop reading here. Most of what follows will just elevate your blood pressure. And you surely don’t want to hear you’re part of the problem, though you are.

Oh you are.

Attacking Alaska Airlines, Anchorage Chrysler Dodge or any other business moving on as a sponsor of the 1,000-mile race that costs $3 million to $4 million per year to stage does nothing to help the race find new sponsors. It does the opposite.

Businesses struggle to survive in a world where markets constantly shift and change. What constitutes a good marketing strategy today might not be a good marketing strategy a year from now let alone five or 10 years from now.

Few companies want to get into a sponsorship situation where the damage from getting out might be greater than any benefit the company ever got from being in.

Alaska Airlines supported the Iditarod for 40 years and when it decided to change tack the thanks it got from some Iditarod fans was the threat to never again fly on the the nation’s sixth-largest airline.

The airline didn’t grow to that size by focusing all its attention on a state with fewer people than the city of Indianapolis. Alaska Air went national long ago and now does far more business Outside than inside the 49th state.

There is no way to know with 100 percent certainty whether the company’s decision to give up on Iditarod stemmed from pressure from the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as it claims, or not, as the company contends.

But it’s really irrelevant because PETA isn’t the Iditarod’s biggest problem.

Relevancy is the Iditarod’s biggest problem.

The what?

I was in this mile-high city on the edge of the Rocky Mountains for a week just before the Iditarod start. Wherever I went – Costco, King Soopers (the Colorado version of Fred Meyer), REI, Whole Foods, a few restaurants – I made a point of chatting people up about Alaska and a couple Alaska issues in particular.

One of those was Iditarod. Few had heard of it. The ones that had wanted to know if it was the dog race held “in Alaska in the winter.”

The start of March was not winter here. The start of March isn’t winter in most of the United States or the rest of the world. There is a reason the Winter Olympics are held in January and February.

The reason is marketing. The International Olympic Committee recognized from the start that the winter games would attract the most attention when people are focused on winter sports instead of thinking about summer activities ahead.

Denver was thinking about spring in March.

With the planet warming, Iditarod has in recent years fretted over whether there will be enough snow and cold in Anchorage to maintain the race’s historic, first-Saturday-of-March start. What it ought to be fretting over is getting the race in sync with the winter season in America and Europe where the potential fans live.

Why? Because all sporting events live and die on fan interest, and Iditarod badly needs more fans.

Dog mushing today appears to be one of the smallest – if not the smallest – niche sport in the country. It has a noisy, vocal core of boosters, but they are few in number.

Reality check

In ranking sports participation by popularity, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts walking at the top with 30 percent of the population over age 15 participating in some way and wrestling at the bottom with a participation rate of 0.01 percent.

Sled dog sports don’t even make the list, although equestrian sports sneak in at 0.4 percent.

Spectator popularity for sled-dog sports is harder to quantify. Most attempts to rank spectator sports rely on TV viewership data, and the Iditarod is not on TV.

Long ago, it was regularly featured on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, but in the last two decades television networks – even small cable networks – haven’t been able to attract enough eyeballs to make Iditarod pay.

The online army of Wikipedia, in attempting to catalog “Sports in the United States,” doesn’t even mention sled-dog sports although it lists a lot of other esoteric activities from sledding and surfing to disc golf and dodgeball along with the well-known, big-time games: professional football, baseball, basketball, motorsports, soccer golf, hockey and tennis.

The National Football League (NFL) is the elephant in lineup followed by the National Basketball Association (NBA); Major League Baseball, once “the national past time,” and the up-trending soccer, according to a Gallup poll.

Football was picked by 37 percent of Americans as their favorite sport to watch with soccer at 9 percent, and the other ball sports scattered between.

When Neilsen, a TV rating service, ranked sports in 2016, the results were similar although it put the National Hockey League (NHL) ahead of soccer at that time followed by golf, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), NCAA basketball and football, NASCAR, IndyCar, and boxing.

Iditarod was not ranked. It is a down-market sport somewhere behind a lot of other down-market sports from X-games to professional cycling to yacht racing and even darts, which has enough of a following that BBC America airs Premier League competitions. 

The league claims “over two million fans visited Sky Sports’ digital media outlets to watch content related to the (2015 World Championship) tournament.”

The Iditarod hoped it could attract that sort of traffic when it began the “Iditarod Insider,” a pay-per-view, online, video “news” service whereby the race covers itself as if it were NASCAR. The Insider appears to have generated about 1 percent as much attention as darts.

As a federally recognized non-profit corporation, Iditarod is required to file an Internal Revenue Service Form 990 reporting its revenues. It latest filing in 2018 reported Insider generated $375,615 in revenue.

Insider packages vary in cost by the services the viewer selects, but presuming every viewer bought the lowest cost package at about $20, the numbers would reflect fewer than 19,000 people paying to watch.

The greater the number of people buying the more expensive packages, the fewer viewers there would be.

Iditarod.com does attract more eyeballs online. The website which offers limited coverage for free, hits a nice peak in traffic when the race starts and finishes, and the race has long been a major traffic generator for ADN.com, the website of the state’s largest newspaper.

But in general, the Iditarod’s fan base is small bordering on tiny.

Investing

Because of that, from a purely business standpoint, Iditarod sponsorship would appear a bad investment for anything but a solely Alaska-based business or an Outside company looking to buy some goodwill in the 49th state as ExxonMobil, the oil giant that fouled Prince William Sound with crude, and Donlin Mine have done with their Iditarod sponsorships.

For a company in the travel industry doing most of its business Outside – say a company like Alaska Airlines – something like esports looks like a better investment than Iditarod.

“The esports market…is on track to surpass $1.5B by 2023,” Business Insider reported in December.

“As competitive gaming cements itself in the popular culture, global investors, brands, media outlets, and consumers are all paying attention. Total esports viewership is expected to grow at a 9 percent compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023, per Business Insider Intelligence estimates. That puts the audience on pace to nearly double over a six-year period as the 2017 audience stood at 335 million.”

If you really want to consider the existential threat Iditarod faces, this is it. In the Age of the Internet, commerce isn’t the only thing moving into the online world. Everything is moving into the online world.

Kids don’t grow up reading Jack London and tales of northern sled dogs anymore. They grow up playing virtual reality games on their computers.

It is hard to avoid wondering if an event built on preserving the Alaska sled dog and the legacy of the man on the trail can survive in a world rushing full speed into the tubes.

The Iditarod might seem the be-all to end-all to 20,000 or so diehard fans subscribing to the Insider, but to most of the world Iditarod is a who cares.

The businesses that have in the past signed on as major sponsors of Iditarod in hopes of using it leverages sales of winter outdoor gear or clothing – most notably Timberland and later Cabela’s – have come and gone not because of animal right’s groups but because of markets.

Hunting and fishing are the bread and butter of Cabela’s, “World’s Foremost Outfitter.” The company could care less what PETA thinks. It didn’t leave Iditarod because of PETA. It left Iditarod because a costly sponsorship wasn’t doing anything to help its bottom line.

You can bet your .44-caliber Magnum handgun that if Cabela’s had found its link to Iditarod worth millions of dollars per year, it would still be a major sponsor.

Which brings us the last great Iditarod hope, a Norwegian company as little known in the U.S. as Iditarod.

Tasty krill

Aker Biomarine built a business selling krill as feed to salmon farms and now hopes to expand into dogfood sales by creating what it bills as the “QrillPet Arctic World Series.” The series brings together long-distance sled dog races in Alaska, Minnesota, Russia and Norway in an attempt to maximize their marketing power.

QRILL Pet is the company’s krill-based, dietary additive for dog food. The company claims it offers nutritionally beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids with “superior bioavailability.”

The U.S dog food market is a potentially lucrative one for QRILL. The U.S. pet food market was estimated to be worth $24.6 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $30 billion by 2022, according to Statista, a data-tracking website.

What the exact arrangement between QRILL and Iditarod is not clear. An Iditarod statement in October said it “joined forces” with QRILL.

We are proud to be a part of QPAWS, along with the Femundlopet, Volga Quest and  John Beargrease,” said  Iditarod’s CEO Rob Urbach. “With the (QRILL) investments in digital visualization technology and innovative television production, we have great confidence that we will be showcasing our sport in a more experiential and compelling way.”

QRILL would appear to be picking up the costs of Insider. The Iditarod’s Form 990 report it cost almost $259,000 to produce the Iditarod programs in 2108, which meant the Insider netted only about $117,000 for Iditarod.

The race did better on gaming, primarily raffles, that netted almost $500,000 and royalties from the commercial use of the Iditarod name which brought in $153,000.

Race organizers thought this year, as they once thought with Insider, that they could make millions off betting, but that appears to have turned into a bit of a bust, as well.

An  “Iditarod Trifecta” built around picking the race winner, the winning time and the number of dogs to finish in the team attracted only 560 betters. The winning bet netted $2,240 for a man from New Jersey.

“The Iditarod is striving the make fandom more immersive and Trifecta was our first attempt to gamify,” Urbach said. “We are already planning on improving the experience next year to enable a more rewarding engagement.”

The race is going to have to improve a lot of it hopes to support itself with its in-house enterprises, but it might have hit some sort of jackpot when this year’s race was won by Norwegian Thomas Wærner, a musher sponsored by Aker’s QRILL Pet.

This had to have made the race’s new partner proud. Whether Aker can use Wærner and the Iditarod to sell huge volumes of its pet-food additive remains to be seen, and that will decide how long this great new Iditarod hope hangs around.

It could last years, or it could join that long list of former Iditarod sponsors – Alaska Airlines, Anchorage Chrysler, Coca-Cola, Costco, Jack Daniel’s, Maxwell House, Nestlé, Panasonic, Pizza Hut, Rite Aid, Safeway, State Farm, and Wells Fargo – that  PETA claims to have driven from the race whether the claim is true or not.

What is true, and what matters, is that all those lost sponsorships have hurt.

 

27 replies »

  1. Such a shame. All Irod needed to do was apply some better ethics in its event and weed out a few dopes in its participant list and the race would continue to tick the majority of boxes for its supporters and sponsors.

  2. For years I have wondered why Iditarod does not ask the vets that serve on the race as volunteers to make statements about the dogs they see on the race. Most intelligent people will believe vets over PETA. Secondly, to the person who claims to have witnessed animal abuse by John Baker (and I have no idea if this is true or not), I have the following comment. There are many, many parents throughout the word. There are a small percentage of people who are horrible parents: they abuse their children emotionally, physically, and/or sexually (I hear some of these cases). Some even kill their children. Just because there are a few bad apples, doesn’t mean that parenting is a bad idea or that most people are bad parents. So, to paint a broad brush and suggest that the Iditarod is bad because there are some people who abuse their dogs is essentially not much different. There are many, many people who own sled dogs and take very good care of them. Have you ever tried to keep a young sled dog inside? I have: most prefer to sleep outside where it is cooler. Just sayin’

  3. The sport has been severed at the roots. Bush Alaska has two sports: hoops and snow machine racing. There’s still some interest in the race but at most checkpoints I hear resentment and disinterest from the local people. This year the staff was so rude that I vowed to never cover the race again. I commented to a long-time volunteer that it’s turned into a cult with outsiders not welcome. She said “No, it’s a private club. I’ve been a volunteer for 25 years and they treat me like I don’t belong.” I predict no more than three Iditarods.

    • James , that’s a sad story but I believe you . All the old villagers who were involved first are passing away , my dads freinds are becoming few in number , many of the the new people running the organization appear not to understand how to keep the flavor of Iditarod intact . I’m not sure how to fix the problem. We may have to weather a rebirth As those in charge are slow to take suggestion like humans every where / right ? . It was truly a treat to see the village of shaktoolik step into old form and pull together to make a cozy checkpoint for the dogs and people without any outsiders. Best checkpoint on the trail . Snow burm Wind break and a warm cabin heated with wood . Nulato also was nice despite a quarantine where we had to camp on the river . A wood fired water heater provided hot water for dogs the locals kept it piping hot , same in Nicololai, was really really nice . The locals are always so friendly . I’m not happy the organizational culture of Iditarod has changed. It’s tough to see . You shouldnt feel alone though as even the mushers are treated as second rate people as compared to 25 years ago .The cart has gotten ahead of the horse . Thankfully the villagers still come out and say hi and their kids are still in love with sled dogs . Koyuk is always a treat . So many happy faces . I had 5 kids begging me to give them my dogs . Always so nice to see the people.

  4. So … Iditarod is supposed to be a moral & sporting wasteland, while a motley ensemble of tag-ends from actually-failed sports are swept together to form a Miscellaneous event, and that’s glorious? And a hard-headed old dude sets a cringe-worthy example for the young, and he’s to-worship?

    What happen to the righteous concern for people playing around by the glaciers? Venturing out on thin ice? Yet we lionize a Don Quixote of the North with more VO2max than common sense?

    Pardon my French, but there appears to be some petticoat showing.

  5. It is hard to see when your head is in the sand. The race is a failed experiment. It has morphed into something it was never intended to be; a very large commercial attraction. With that comes visibility and eventually transparency. It is no longer a sporting event. Rather it is a race for money and fame regardless of the consequence. The emphasis is on time and money , not the health of the athletes. Interest in the race is waning. People just do not care.
    It is time to move on.

    • Apply your line of reasoning to any and every major sport in the world and America, other than the last three sentences what you wrote it is the exact same story with a far different result.

  6. Steve… Have to do some correction on your info. Betty led me into UNK as a very strong leader. Came down with whatever after she sat there for hours. Thunder indeed lost weight. He does that at home, and he was eating on the race. (I am skinny too…) Charlotte was 100% with zero weight loss at all times. All that said and corrected, I don’t think you are all wrong. Your points are well-taken. However—–
    Working dogs, whether they be sled dogs or bird dogs, can have some rougher days while they work. Our job is to mitigate that the very best we can. If the rough days start to get too much, then we need to pull the plug on what they are doing and care for them. A dog is not meant to sit on the couch and get fat. The need jobs. If you don’t think that, then so be it. My firm belief is that if you think that animals should only be pets– then you are wrong. (that is a period…)
    Sled dogs are the happiest animals in the world when hooked to a sled. Every person who has ever hooked up a dog will tell you that. Since we work with dog rescue in Delta Jct…also very interesting to me is that when we get a dog in that is not a husky, they also want to pull and work. Point of fact; we took in a 7 or 8 year-old Akita cross that was a biter. Within 2 weeks we had him hooked to sled and running with the rest of the old dogs. He is crazy for it and now is a happy dog with everyone who carries his pan around in his mouth. He has a purpose now.

    We all get tired and sometimes a little beat up when we work hard. We are happier and more confident when we are back to 100%. Tell me that dogs are different?

    • John,
      I appreciate your feedback and do not feel dogs are happiest when getting fat on a couch, but I also do not buy into the “working dog” cover for defending the Iditarod.
      This is a 1,000 mile corporate sponsored race for profit (or at least a large chunk of cash).
      I have taken in a few Alaskan Huskies over the years…some were “sled dogs” and others were “pound dogs” but they all had similar genes and traits.
      Currently, I have a brother and sister team that I ski jor with around my home in Willow.
      I have seen many river hazards first hand (including moose, over flow and open water).
      In my personal experience, all Huskies love to run free as you can see that when releasing them in the hills while skiing or hiking.
      This is when my dogs always appear the happiest to me.
      Dogs do not feel a personal drive to “work” no more than “play”.
      It is through conditioning and our Anthropocentric views that we put Huskies into the field of “working dogs” just like the Mat Su borough considers them “livestock” in many SPUDS.
      My point is that without dog drivers like yourself, these dogs would never embark on a 1,000 mile journey.
      Some accidents can be totally unforeseen, but running a dog until it vomits or pushing it into pulmonary aspiration and pneumonia is over the line of animal abuse.
      Animal abuse is why activists are against the race and I have not seen anything to prevent this cycle of abuse in the 2020 race.

  7. Huge chasm divides nitty-gritty backcountry travel and digital snowflakes. Yes, relevance and fan base are key. How to connect with an audience for whom slow internet is the ultimate hardship? Iditarod has been slow to transition. But, anyone who believes these idiotic so called animal rights groups are willfully deceived. These people have a confirmation bias that causes them to believe ridiculous claims without evidence. Worse, they actually seriously regard posts on social media.

  8. I went to a KTUU Iditarod party at Northwoods Lodge in 2016, I think. Young marketing rep from Alaska Airlines told me, ‘Alaska business is about 21% of our volume and falling. We’ll be under 15% in a few years as our business expands up and down the West Coast, to Hawai and to cities in the midwest and east. There’s not much point in advertising in Alaska, we have all the business and there is no where else for us to fly, no towns to add.’

  9. Thanks Bryan . What you are missing is that Iditarod has made management mistakes and Alaska’s long lasting economic downturn = tough economic times for sponsors and they need return on investment. peta is a scapegoat. Iditarod hasn’t found a good sponsor liaison since Greg bill left or died . They made a strategy mistake and fired Joanne Potts who did the nitty gritty of organizational details including fund raising. Iditarod doesn’t have a full replacement . The new ceo is on a steep learning curve and like mr. medred says Iditarod relevancy is in decline. Though that’s not why our organization is struggling. It’s purely mismanagement. Stan Hooly the prior ceo saw it coming and fled . If you follow Wells Fargo you would see they pulled out due to their own financial disaster mistakes . Peta was not a factor. Saying anything else spreads mistruth . Most people know peta is a hypocrite. Dodge and jack Daniels have a tough riding image . Peta is not a big deal to them . Financial bottom lines are important to companies . Getting a good deal matters and being treated right matters . Using peta is just a sidestepping of responsibility on buisness management. The buck stops with the board and ceo .Perhaps Andy Baker was more important than we realized . Iditarod is great and more relevant today in the era of technology than ever before. Down to earth back to basics struggle and adventure. Teamwork makes Iditarod great and relevant. Inspiring dreams are more important now than ever . Iditarod just needs to pull everyone back together and the pieces will fall into place . Start will reinstateing of voting memberships. Then install an ethic of positivity and growth within the organization rather than reduction reduction with scapegoats . It’s all about making sure sponsors and all public are well treated . It’s always amazing to me the huge numbers of Alaskans who support Iditarod with a dedicated heart . I would venture to say over 99%of Alaskans I have met are intense Iditarod fans . Frankly the biggest problem is state failing economics and the devaluation of Americans dollar which makes life harder and harder. Iditarod needs a million dollar prize for its winner . That would get the public excited. Even a more exciting start banquet for the public would be helpful. The crowds in anchorage cheering the mushers are incredible. Every year they grow .

    • Ramey, completely understand what you are saying about mismanagement and concur. Take this whole Global Warming/Climate Change lie and their Autistic leader Greta Funberg. A multi-trillion dollar lie forcing and extorting Fortune 500 Corporations into “compliance”. Why? Image! These companies are sued daily for any and everything. It is easier to play the “game” to appease the loud mouthed minority whom they know will tie them up in court over bogus suits or actually destroy their assets with their radical agendas. These companies know the average person goes with the flow. They tell you “ah, we are going to spend our money elsewhere” and we say “ah, ok” and that is the end of it. AA is based in Seattle. Nutsville. Tell me they do not feel the pressure of bad publicity of the Irod in a place like Seattle. Of course PETA are frauds and hypocrites. So is Hillary, Obama, Biden, etc.. nobody cares and those that do have families and jobs.The media is on their side. It is true PETA carries more weight in Seattle than it does in Anchorage or outside of Anchorage. Not saying it was the sole reason AA pulled out, but I think PETA added some weight to the decision..

  10. Craig,
    You did miss one huge reason why sponsors are leaving…Dog Abuse.
    Petit reported himself that his dogs were running with frostbite and puking while he continued to advance them up the trail?
    Did he immediately stop and rest them..NO.
    He said he had to slow down a bit so they did not inhale vomit while running.
    Sick.
    “Humane Mushing” had a link to a PETA press release.
    It looks like the Qpaws coverage came down since it had some “unsavory” footage of mushers.
    “Mitch Seavey…reportedly threw a dog down and pinned her muzzle to the ground while on the race’s livestream.”
    “As of Friday, a dog named Betty used by John Schandelmeier was in critical condition with pneumonia, and dogs Thunder and Charlotte weren’t eating, had lost a lot of weight, and had fevers, diarrhea, and consistent coughing.”
    The blatant reality is this 1,000 mile dog race uses man’s best friend like disposable batteries and needs to end.

    https://www.peta.org/media/news-releases/2020-iditarod-dog-abuse/

    • I agree. Dog abuse is the reason I can’t stand the sport anymore. I started my first experience with Iditarod dogs with John Baker and Katherine Keith in 2016. I started with a completely open mind, not knowing much about sled dogs at all. Katherine Keith will say I have my own agenda, whatever that means, because all I did was respond to her ad o. Craigslist. I have nothing to do with PETA, and now after witnessing the blatant abuse at Baker’s, I understand PETA differently. Like most people that live outside of Alaska, I knew almost nothing about Iditarod, and honestly didn’t care about some old dogsled race in Alaska. Most people hear about it, but just don’t care. It’s not exciting, not appealing to anyone outside Alaska because we don’t have many other dogsledding events anywhere else in the country, and it’s more like a novelty. I personally think the Iditarod had it’s hayday, but times have changed, people don’t appreciate animal abuse, and have much better things to do with their time. Time to let it die, like so many of the poor dogs that died for the pointless”sport”.

      • Mr. Townsend, do you realize Peta kills more animals per year than run in the Iditarod? They murder an average of 1500 per year . 50,000 over past 25 years due to peta . Peta is a scam . Their adoption percentage is less than 15% . They are a murder company making money from sliming people and murder of animals. why anyone would align with them or confer with them is only due to lack of education or just plain foolishness. Peta kills . Mushers want animals to live . Even the sloppiest among us love animals and want them happy. Peta kills 50,000 in past 25 years . It’s documented.

      • Ramey,

        Maybe the idea of chaining out 20-100 dogs on your property and not being able to personally financially support it is an idea who’s time has past.
        In other words living beyond your means (financially and time wise) at the dogs expense.
        And I love seeing dogs run btw,in a harness or otherwise.

      • Dave Mc , I’m not sure what you are getting at . I’m glad you like seeing sled dogs in harness where they can feel important and needed while exercising a fulfilling life for themselves. Without kennels and mushers it’s hard for sled dogs to exist . Visa versa . It’s a symbiotic relationship.

      • Ramey Smyth, I’m not sure if your numbers are true or not but I’m not a die hard PETA supporter either. I really didn’t know much about PETA or Iditarod before 2016, and after witnessing John Baker shoot his dog for absolutely no valid reason, witness him beat them unconscious and bloody, I decided to support the organization trying to stop Iditarod. I’ve heard many stories about PETA being unethical, and that’s why I don’t donate or subscribe to their organization. I am happy to support their efforts when it comes to stopping the Iditarod because animal abuse, especially dog abuse is something I care about very much. It is a bit selfish in a way I admit, but I can’t fight all the world’s battles unfortunately, but if I can help stop the mistreatment of these dogs I’ll sleep a little better. I’d support any organization, not just PETA , in their efforts to stop cruelty to animals. After my experience I have done my on research on the Iditarod, origins, and so on, and honestly times have changed, there is not as much need for dogsledding as there once was because of alternate means of travel, and now the race is not nearly as rewarding as it once may have been. People now invest way too much money in a sport that has lost most of it’s fanbase, sponsors, and flair. The winning team doesn’t travel around the US getting admiration from fans far and wide, they return to their homes and that’s mostly Alaska, and start their cycle all over again, assuming they survived in the first place!
        Not much of a sport, anyone can train an animal to do as you command, and it’s more of a show of how you can assert your dominance over dogs. How much of a sport is that? You want to impress, do the 1000 miles on your own steam, maintaining 7 mph or more the entire time, call it the great race if you want, but I bet you don’t push yourself as hard as you push your dogs, because you actually care about your own life!

  11. The problem is Alaskan Airlines and the rest of the other sponsors succumb to about 1%, if that, of their client base. The looney, squeaky wheel gets the oil. The airlines know this 1% probably doesn’t even fly, or if they do, it is only during emergencies. The preception is airplanes destroy the environment, contribute to Global Warming, Climate Change, whatever… The airlines know this 1% is usually unemployed, anarchists, radical leftists, and just plain unstable. So, they bow to the negative attention. Why? Because 99% of the normal people work and have better, profuctive things to do. Ridiculous..

    • Hi Bryan. It’s a mistake to think Ak airlines left due to peta. Ak air has been Iditarods incredibly loyal sponsor . They have slowly distanced themselves because the people who manage Iditarod have been doing a poor job of relations with sponsors ,
      Also poor relations with Mushers , fans and villages. Also primarily like Craig said return of investment . Iditarod heads didn’t treat Ak air with full respect and appreciation at the ground level starting with kindness to the people running the remote booth 25years ago at the nome community center where mushers , tourists , vets , locals , and others mingle .Then Iditarod just faltered from there out . Ak air also gradually moved its financial and management focus out of state . Mushers appreciate Alaska air beyond belief. 20 +years ago they supported mushers and Alaska’s sport with full effort. It only cost 50$ to send a team and gear to anywhere in Alaska that there was a race start ,using Ak air . Now it’s about 2,000$ Plus . Times change . Iditarod would do well to give Ak air an appreciation award of the century. They may yet . I know Ak air employees were disgruntled by their treatment by their words . Many to this day are huge fans of Iditarod. Iditarod is creating its own problem by its poor management decisions poor treatment of mushers and people associated with the event even down to foolishly eliminating Iditarod voting membership which alienates Iditarods only strong support base . Iditarod withers without Alaskans involment and other fans . The press always focus on the negative and it’s possible Iditarod showed its appreciation to Alaska Air but that never hit the news because positive rarely sells . All mushers hats are off to Alaska Air ! A big thank you ! One of the most loyal buisnesses ever ! Thank you Alaska Air and All Iditarod supporters !!! You help bring this state together!

    • Bryan,

      I think you’re believing the PETA propaganda over AK Air on this one.

      Alaska Airlines spokesman Tim Thompson has gone on record saying in part that “PETA did not play a role in our decision.”

      “We have been proud of our history and support of the Iditarod, especially travel for the veterinarians that are focused on the safety and health of the dog teams,”

      “We have been part of the Iditarod for more than 40 years and are proud of our sponsorship, which was focused on dog health and safety,”

      Doesn’t really sound like they are ashamed of their past relationship with Iditarod at all to me, whether PETA played a part is debatable as well. They seem to take a lot more credit than what is due for decisions like these.

      • Gentlemen, I hear you, and while some of what you say is true, I do not believe all of it is. Just like certain businesses/credit card co/banks are pulling support for pro 2nd Amendment orgs due to minority groups. Guess whose side the media is on?
        “PETA has pressured race sponsors for years and taken credit for companies like Wells Fargo and Jack Daniels from dropping financial support of the race.

        The company is now urging American car giant Chrysler to follow suit and pull its sponsorship of the race.

        PETA officials have also said they met with airline representatives and conducted protests outside Alaska Airlines’ headquarters.”

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