A (half) marathon of marketing

24th February, 2011

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Last weekend I took part in my first ever half marathon, the Brighton Half Marathon which shut the city down for a morning and weaved its way along the seafront taking in the sights of Hove lagoon at one end and the rather magnificent Roedean School at the other. It was hard work and I definitely felt it the day after but something else struck me about the event which I found rather interesting. The event was marketed to the extreme! An enormous mixture of sponsorship, advertising, pr, and product placement.

From the start line to the home straight, it was difficult to find a section of the course that didnt have a logo or a brand rep in it. Even runners wearing clothing in support of their chosen charity were unknowingly giving a company some free publicity.

Dont get me wrong, I think the race was fantastic, really well organised and I dont doubt that the large amounts of money raised for the different charities will be put to good use, but these days it seems that the reason these events exist gets hidden underneath an almost competitive need to promote various goods and services.

But who can blame brands from using the event to their advantage? Take Lucozade for example, its the perfect audience to promote their product to and its a pretty cost effective way of doing it. Aside from a sponsorship fee the brand cant have had to pay much for a full days worth of PR. By handing out free drinks and energy sachets at the start and finish as well as at 2 re-fuelling stations on the course, they are re-enforcing their commitment to sporting events and allowing both runners and spectators to associate the brand with helping to achieve a good sporting performance. Its a very effective way of communicating with their target audience without having to part with excessive amounts of cash! And seeing as they are sponsoring a charity event it cant exactly do anything to harm the brands CSR (corporate social responsibility) either.

Other official sponsors/partners to the event included sportswear companies Brooks and Sweatshop, both of whom stock specialist running gear. Again adopting a clever, cost effective way to gain popularity amongst their target audience and create awareness of their position as providers of proper running gear. Sadly though I didnt receive or see any freebies being handed out to competitors, which could mean that their efforts are forgotten once the event has finished and the runners have returned to their regular day to day activities.

The event was a great opportunity for local companies and business to make their presence and support known. Aside from Brighton and Hove City Council who allow the roads to be closed off and provide ongoing support on the day, there was also backing from Brightons local radio station Juice 107.2, local rag The Argus and also Visit Brighton.

There were also a number of smaller local businesses such as sports injury clinics who made an appearance at the end, either by handing out promotional flyers or by providing massages at the finishing line. A great way of promoting yourself to a huge audience of very specific customers!



Its clear that these brands have all taken advantage of an opportunity to show their support to a good cause and also target a very specific audience. With the number of competitors due to increase year on year these brands can only be setting a marker for future companies who are likely to see the benefits of communicating to a mass audience through one big push of activity that leaves a lasting impression.

The day itself was great, everyone gave it their best efforts, some amazing times were recorded and the support from local people was fantastic. Ive already signed up for next year and look forward to see who else will lend their support to the day in return for some very effective and targeted marketing! A few more freebies would also go down a treat!


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