Marathoners run for a lot of different reasons, but an unspoken reason is… the shirt. To a marathoner the shirt is a testament that we finished. To a sponsor the shirt is a moving billboard. While numerous sponsors are listed on the race shirt, one of the most important is the food sponsors. To demonstrate how food sponsors are utilizing their involvement at marathons and to identify potential opportunities, let’s take a look at the 2010 ING New York City Marathon (NYCM).
Starting with the positives:
• The Subway Guy – Jared who we all know and love as The Subway Guy, is running in the NYCM. His participation, coupled with Subway’s sponsorship help to further position Subway sandwiches as a nutritious meal ideal for fueling long runs. By the spokesperson showing they trust the brand to fuel them for the big event; it will help to increase brand confidence among runners.
• Grana Padano Cheese Tasting Tour –During race week, runners, family, friends and locals are invited to the Grana Padano Cheese Tasting Tour hosted at several NYC retailers. By offering a weeklong event that’s open to not only the 45,000 runners, but also the expected two million plus spectators, Grana Padano is extending the reach of its sponsorship well outside race day.
• Marathon Runs on Dunkin – While the official start of the NYCM is 8:30 AM, runners and spectators will be up well before that preparing. As a sponsor, Dunkin Donuts will provide runners with complimentary coffee inside runner’s village. Additionally, spectators can redeem a coupon for a free Dunkin Donuts fleece hat and Hot Chocolate from participating stores. It’s important that sponsors don’t forget about spectators, volunteers and local residents who may not be running, but will be providing energy and support to the marathoners.
Now for potential opportunities:
• More Than Just Race Day – The NYCM isn’t just about 26.2 miles. For runners the marathon experience began with the first training run last spring. Throughout training, marathoners spend hours trying out products and I’ve always wondered why food sponsors wait until just before the race to reach out to participants when they should be with us from the beginning. A Marathon Training Kick-Off Event would be the perfect way for food sponsors to establish trust and become a staple of a runners training program by offering samples, cooking demos and encouragement from the start.
• Training Run Trial/Error – How runners fuel before, during and after a race is a big factor in the race experience. Since it can be difficult to find the perfect runner’s diet, marathoners rely on training runs to experiment with different foods and recipes. By food sponsors hosting long training runs, they could give runners a chance to test out their product before the actual marathon. Additionally, all runners would appreciate not having to tackle a long run alone.
• Running Gone Viral –Marathon tweet-ups, dailymile and online runner tracking are just a few tools that runners are using to improve their marathon experience. I would love to see food sponsors create a page on their Web site that would launch months before the marathon and could include information like recipe ideas and nutrition advice.
Food for thought: In its inaugural year, the NYCM had 127 starters. Forty-one years later more than 124,000 people applied with 45,000 being accepted to participate. That being said, marathon running is a rapidly growing sport and it would be great to see sponsors start taking advantage of all the marathon experience has to offer.
Katie Miller is a Junior Account Executive on the Vicks account, with consumer PR experience in Health and Wellness, Food and Beverage, and Outdoor and Leisure. Since picking up running in the fall of 2008, Katie has ran two marathons, two half marathons and numerous shorter races, including racing as a charity runner for Breast Cancer and Alzheimer’s. She has a passion for social media, cooking and traveling.