The big news in the marathon partnership world (pretty small world, but still) this week was the new title sponsor that the NYC Marathon will have from 2014 – 2021. ING (an Amsterdam based banking group) had been the title sponsor of the event for 10 years but 2013 marks the last year of that partnership. Apparently, they are getting out of the naming business for marathons (this is the last year for the ING Hartford Marathon as well).
The new title sponsor is a company called Tata Consultancy Services, an India-based tech firm. Thankfully, they are calling it the TCS NYC Marathon and not Tata Consultantcy Services NYC Marathon (the name Tata just doesn’t sound that cool for a marathon). Financial aspects of the deal were not released but it is most certainly a very high dollar number for the naming rights of the iconic NYC marathon. For example, last year for the Baltimore Marathon, previous title sponsor Under Armour paid $500,000 – and the Baltimore Marathon is a much smaller event when compared to the monstrosity of the NYC Marathon!
Marathons have become big business for corporate sponsorships over the last decade or so. Obviously, there is no way that a marathon could be put on without corporate sponsors helping to defray costs. If there were no corporate sponsors, what we pay now for marathon fees would be small potatoes compared to what we would have to pay (imagine $300 race fees!). So, I am thankful that businesses do help bridge the financial gap for our hobby/sport. It amazes me sometimes that these companies do step forward to pay these costs for naming rights – who has decided to bank with ING because of a marathon you have run bearing their title? 🙂
The strange thing about the title sponsors now is that it seems as if many race directors are going after any company that is willing to put their name on it instead of focusing more on companies that may have some greater impact on the sport. I do not fault the RDs – I am certain it is that the majority of companies that are running-centric are either stretched to thin or do not feel the need to be a title sponsor since people are going to buy there products anyway.
There are many marathons that do have running related title sponsors – ASICS Stockholm Marathon, ASICS LA Marathon, Adidas Auckland Marathon, Nike Women’s Marathon, Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, The North Face Challenge Marathons, Garmin Marathon, and new this year the Gore-TEX Philadelphia Marathon just to name some of the marathons. Under Armour was the title sponsor of the Baltimore Marathon for many years before cutting its sponsorship of the race this year.
From my experience, it seems as if the two largest categories of title sponsors of marathons are either Hospitals/Medical Centers or Banking Firms. I find it somewhat interesting (and at times, reassuring) that medical firms sponsor marathons. I don’t know if they are doing it to encourage people to be active to stay healthy or if they are doing it because they believe it is the best place to get customers :). It is also very possible that those two categories of businesses are the title sponsors for many marathons because they are two categories of businesses that continue to thrive (well, maybe not the banks so much anymore which might be one of the reasons ING is dropping the marathons).
Sometimes, however, you get some marathons that have a title sponsor that just really makes you chuckle. I get the marathons that have a regional supermarket as their title sponsor (Publix Marathon in GA), I get the marathons that are named after oil companies (Chevron Houston Marathon), and I get the marathons that are named after people. It is the marathons that have some obscure title sponsor (like companies that you have never heard of before or would more readily associate with an ad in Home and Garden) that are the funny ones to me. I have seen marathons named after beauty products, fast food, and garbage companies. Since most marathons with title sponsors try to incorporate the name, logo, or slogan of the title sponsor into the medal, I have always wondered what the medal from a marathon that was sponsored by a garbage company would look like. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong – I am not hating on these companies at all. I am glad they are sponsoring marathons but the marriage just seems unlikely at times.
Another interesting thing is to see how the marathon works the title sponsor into the medal design. The second marathon I did was the a marathon that was sponsored by Wirefly (cell phone superstore). That medal was basically a huge advertisement for Wirefly – you couldn’t really make out at first glance that it was a running event medal! Fortunately, the marathon corrected the design for the next year.
So, what do you expect from a marathon with a title sponsor? Have you found certain title sponsored marathons that offer swag that is tailored to the title sponsor?