Sports Marketing 15: Fifteen Key Sponsorships in 2011
by Larry Eder
So, for the first time, Fifteen Key Sports Marketing Moments in 2011, as Runblogrun sees them, in sports marketing. In our mind, here are the fifteen moments (actually started with ten, but too many to miss, so, went to fifteen), that have contributed or taken away from the sport, so lets get ready for the discussions!
The bottom line is this: A collective $100 million is spent on sponsoring our sport by the various footwear companies (the biggest, obviously, Nike & adidas), from race numbers to track meets, to road races to the sponsorship of elite athletes in North America.
For us to get new sponsors, we have to professionalize our approaches and look beyond the footwear companies. Without the sponsors, our sport would hardly exist.
It is also here where I want to show some respect for our friends at Flotrack.org, Runnerspace.com, RunningNetwork.com, marathonguide.com, and trackandfieldnews.com, who have promoted the sport. Digital media is one of the key media platforms for our sports growth, but do not forget what TFN, RW and RN print media have done for years. Print media has had to evolve, and continues to evolve. Watch Ipad apps later this year that could really shake things up. Media gives sports marketing value. In this day, we have an educated fan base, and who adapt to new media platforms and we have consumers who are, " early adapters".
It is the creativity that RBR salutes. From full time staffs, to volunteers, to elite athletes, agents, managers, coaches, (and yes, sponsors), the approach to the sport varies with the event and that is where we all can learn from other's experiences. The sport is vital, and even in these tough economic times, the sport continues to grow!
Look how most of the major brands have developed support for events that give young runners a chance to shine. Notice how most of the major brands have supported series of road events or marathons, as ways to reach their potential consumers.
Great opportunities for athletes, coaches, agents and sponsors to grow the sport. Remember, it is only in working together that we can grow the sport. Here is where RBR recognizes some of the most creative sports marketing sponsorships in our sport in North America:
This is not in any order, so please, no inferences there:
1. New Balance sponsors New Balance Indoor GP: In February 2011, New Balance took over what is one of the key events in the indoor circuit. In our minds, this IS the best elite Indoor meet in U.S., and since 1996, Global Athletics & Marketing has showcased the Reggie Lewis Center, one of the two best facilities that we have seen for indoor track & field in North America. New Balance's support came to the event three weeks before the actual date.
2. Brooks introduces the PB Invitational: Held the last Sunday in February 2011, Brooks Running followed the mantra of all successful footwear companies: find sponsorships that make sense for your brand. The one day indoor meet featured some of the best high school athletes in US and gave them a chance to run fast times in Seattle, WA. A fun approach, nice to see Brooks getting involved in high school arena.
3. ASICS sponsors Honda LA Marathon: LA has had the potential of being a major world player in the marathon. With ASICS support, perhaps this event will become the key event on the West Coast. ASICS now sponsors Paris, New York, Tokyo and LA. They also sponsor Big Sur and Flying Pig, two well branded events. ASICS sponsorship of ING NYCM was upped this year, will be fascinating to see how they co market these events. And the late Fred Lebow, one of the most innovative people EVER in this sport, will be smiling from the great race director meeting the sky.
4. Nike Prefontaine Classic, sponsored by Nike: An event that kept the sport alive when there were no other elite outdoor events in United States, the Pre Classic continues to evolve. Last years 25k/30k, plus 5k and 10k events on the night before give track fans access to many of the best athletes of the world.
5. adidas New York Grand Prix: In the decade since this event has started, it has shown, that, if presented well, track & field in the Big Apple can attract outdoors. Last year's bad weather caused some issues, but the athletes presented and the facility is superb. With the GP NYC and Pre Classic, the US now needs an event in the Midwest to showcase the sport.
Liked their Golden mile and 100m high school events.
6. Nike Border Clash: where it all came from: The Nike Border Clash, now in year 13, is the best little cross country race in US. From it sprang the Nike NXN and several other events. I use this event to gauge support of track & field in the largest footwear company in running: Nike. Remember, some great kids have come out of here: remember Galen Rupp? Run on the company campus, it is a fun event, period!
7. Nike NXN: The NXN, which grew from the Nike Border Clash, has given the sport its first real team championships. How important is this event? In interviewing several teams after 2011 event, it was obvious that their entire focus in 2012 will be NXN. A real sport changer. Nike also gets major support at this event from some of its key athletes. Important showcase there. Also noted, each year, Nike CEO Mark Parker shows up to give the awards.
8. FootLocker Cross Country, sponsored by Saucony, in year 33: This event was the idea of former Kinney executives. FootLocker has sponsored it for 33 years, and it is a love of the sport event. From its beginning, it has always been about the kids. Four regional events, seven boys and girls from each event. Big race in San Diego (except for a few years in Disney). Virtually all of the footwear companies have partnered with it. It is the Horatio Alger story of high school distance running.
9. New Balance sponsors NB Indoor, NB Outdoor: As NB reaches out to high schoolers, it has focused on these events (and the NB Armory, the most welcoming facility for high school indoor track, in my mind, in the US, a true positive sanctuary for sports). The Indoor & Outdoor are part of NB's goal to develop a relationship between high school athletes and NB. A very nice start....
10. USATF new sports marketing & marketing consultant: Max Siegel: Max Siegel has had much success in NASCAR and on TV. Selling major sponsors, Max knows the walk and knows the talk. He has also sold a reality series to TV as well. USATF needs some creative marketing approaches, and we at RBR looks with anticipation on how Mr. Siegel and his team approaches selling the most undervalued sport in North America. First on his agenda is selling the U.S. Open, a new indoor meet at Madison Square Gardens.
11. PUMA sponsors Mt. SAC Invitational Cross Country and Track & Field: PUMA America has grown its running slow and again, like the other brands that are successes, focused on a few events. Mt.SAC has tremendous cross country and track & field invitationals.
This year, Usain Bolt showed up and gave about 600 kids an exciting speed clinic. Whether you are the biggest brand in the world, or the smallest, the key is to brand with events and communication tools that make sens for your brand. PUMA America does it well, and keeping Mt. SAC Invites and growing the sport is exemplary.
12. RRCA and their youth running programs: Jean Knaack has elevated the Road Runners Clubs of America to the largest grass roots running organization of the sport, period. With 1,501 running clubs, and over 7,000 supported events, Ms. Knaack and her board do it the old fashioned way: they know that 177,000 members have a lot of influence. RBR encourages sponsors to flock to the RRCA, as they will give you the dollars' worth.
13. NB Armory is hosting Millrose Games: Yes, the NB Armory, which puts on 75 plus events this year is hosting the Millrose Games. Norb Sander, the eminence grise who runs NB Armory out played many with his sponsorship of the Millrose Games. Ray Flynn is meet director. Two events in New York this year. Let's see how they play!
14. World Marathon Majors:The Marathon Majors (BAA Boston, Virgin London, BMW Berlin, Bank of America Chicago and ING New York City Marathon) gave us real thrills and world record. Sports Illustrated noted that Patrick Makau's run in New York was one of its great moments for the year. It is a testament to their influence and stature that the events set records on selling and and show the strength of the sport. One sports marketer sent RBR a note: how could you not consider WMM a serious contender ? Well, watch our next post.
15. New York Road Runners: This has been the year for the NYRR. The club is everywhere, and not only provides races in New York for its 40,000 plus members, but supports the sport in so many ways. NYRR upped the ante on producing the ING New York City marathon this year with a superb week of press conferences, amazing media center, great races and making the point of supporting runners, young and old. In its 40th year, the ING NYCM gave us some tremendous moments, from the drama at the front of both men and women's elite races, to the 40,000 plus stories in the finishers of the ING New York City marathon.
Again, this is imperfect list, but RBR tries to show some respect to some of the major events and sponsorships in our sport. More to come. But, first, thanks to all of our sports sponsors and we hope that new sponsors know that the 40 million runners, 40,000 plus events and the most winning team in global sports would welcome new brands and new opportunities.