First, there was the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and the ensuing controversy and backlash against the New York marathon. Then a few months later came the terrorist attack that struck the Boston race.
All told, it hasn’t been an easy time for marathons. Yet the solidarity and determination of participants in this endurance sport, their supporters and their broad range of sponsors was nevertheless evident in London earlier this month, when 35,000 runners showed that their spirit was undaunted and that the race must continue.
And shortly after the race, organizers of the London marathon announced that they’d extended a sponsorship deal with Virgin Money, a unit of billionaire and huge marathon supporter Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, until at least 2017. The deal underscores the strong commitment that sponsors, including financial firms, insurance companies, shoe and apparel manufacturers, to name but a few, have for marathons, a commitment that’s only set to increase as the marathon industry becomes increasingly global.
Marathons aren’t only taking place in major world cities such as New York, Boston, London or Chicago. As economics and social moirés change across the globe, and more and more people take up running as a sport (in India, for example, running is becoming an important sport for women, too), today’s marathons are happening in such far-flung places as Mumbai, Madagascar, Kigali and Easter Island. Marathon tourism from the U.S. and Europe is on the rise and with it, the scope for increased sponsorship opportunities is also increasing.
Jayme Goldberg, co-founder of Pittsburgh-based SilverLine Athletics, a digital technology firm for the endurance sports industry, believes that sponsors of every kind have a chance of really upping their ante with the advent of social media, in particular the use of video technology.
Marathon sponsorship is not just about a company placing its name on a banner, or chalking its logo on the road at a mile marker, according to Goldberg. In the new avatar of sponsorship, leveraging social media to its fullest is becoming more and more important, said Goldberg, who is a professional athlete and runner and formerly served as chief strategy officer for BNY Mellon subsidiary Urdang Capital Management.