It's been a global practice that only consumer interfacing brands are the title sponsors of marathons that usually see the crème de la crème of the participating city.
Mumbai Marathon for the last 14 years had Standard Chartered as the title sponsor whereas Delhi had Airtel as the main sponsor.
IT firm TCS has been gradually making its way as the title sponsor in the global marathon circuit. The company already has a long contract with New York Marathon to be the title sponsor. It is also supportingthe Amsterdam, Boston, London and Mumbai Marathons. The company this year has become the title sponsor for the Mumbai Marathon, a $405,000 event. The company has been associated with the event as one of the sponsors but this year they've decided to be title sponsor.
Why is an IT firm spending hefty amounts on becoming the title sponsor for marathons and what brand building goal is it achieving? "Marathons are held in almost all major financial districts across the world. These runs mostly see corporate leaders participate. You have CEOs, CFOs, investors and bankers running together," a marketing expert said.
"Mumbai is all about investors. Where else do you find so many HNIs getting together? You have an Anil Ambani running along with the heads of India Bulls and Edelweiss. There was an RBI governor who was a participant. A brand like TCS would want to be seen and noticed at such a place and they're doing it globally," the expert said.
The Mumbai Marathon is, without a doubt, one of the biggest sporting events in the city. Not only does it bring scores of the city dwellers out on the streets for the run of their lives but it also attracts many world-class athletes who travel from across the world to compete in the race and claim the medal.
The event has also attracted two new partners this year. Tata Nexon will be the event’s ‘drive by’ partner and Bisleri has joined as the ‘hydration’ partner.
Speaking about why the Mumbai Marathon is an ideal property for brands to tie up with, Vivek B Singh, Joint Managing Director, Procam International said, “Many brands have tied up with us but the interesting thing is that each brand has a role. It is not just a tie-up of brands in a marathon. If we talk about hydration, there is Bisleri. If it is time then we have Seiko. Each brand plays a role in the marathon and provides a service to the marathon and the marathoners and I think that is wonderful because then they own that space as a partner. So, it is not just a branding exercise but it is an emotional connect with the event.”
With about 17 partners, the Tata Mumbai Marathon will see the crème de la crème in long-distance running, lining up to vie for the top honours. Already, the event that will take place on January 21 has seen 44407 registrations and will see names like Solomon Deksisa (Tokyo Marathon 2017 runner-up), Joshua Kipkorir (Mumbai Marathon 2017 runner-up and Shuko Genemo (2017 Ljubljana Marathon winner). The number of international participants this year has touched an all-time high record of 30.
“The Mumbai Marathon is the single largest philanthropic sporting event held in India and provides a great platform to run for a cause. TCS has been actively involved in promoting a healthy and active lifestyle with focus on a fit workforce. Globally, we have been leveraging our Fit4Life initiative as well as external partnerships with leading international distance running properties to promote wellness and community development among our employees, their families, and our customers. Tata Mumbai Marathon is a great way to increase our engagement with the community, raise funds for charity as well as create societal awareness about the necessity of good health and fitness,” said Ravi Viswanathan, Chief Marketing Officer, TCS.
Bisleri, which will be partnering with the Mumbai Marathon for the first time, is looking forward to creating touch points and awareness about right hydration. The brand also wants to throw some light on their new initiative ‘bottles for change’. Through this initiative, Bisleri is trying to give out the message that plastic bottles are not harmful but the way people dispose them is. Through the ‘bottles for change’ initiative, Bisleri intends to mobilise rag pickers who will go to houses, colleges and work spaces, collect used plastic bottles and send them to be recycled.
Talking about why Mumbai Marathon is the right event to get associated with, Anjana Ghosh, Director, Business Development and HR at Bisleri International Pvt Ltd, said, “Water is an integral part of people’s lifestyle and water builds your health. Now, marathon is a platform where people come for health reasons and run and so we believe this is the right platform for us. Here water matters and that works very well with our product.”
Brand Consultant Cajetan Vaz too thinks events like the Mumbai Marathon can act as a great platform for brands, provided that what the brand stands for is in line with what the event stands for.
“How much a brand can gain from their association with events such as Mumbai Marathon depends, to a great extent, to what the pitch line is about and the kind of people who are taking part in the event. There obviously is a good positive rub-off and great word-of-mouth from these events. It is an interactive, experiential exercise for the brand so, I think it is definitely rewarding for brands to associate with an event like this,” said Vaz.
But with so many brands jostling for attention, is the Mumbai Marathon becoming a mela for brands?
“I don’t think that will ever happen. The proof for that is the fact that more and more runners are running longer distances. I remember that when we had started Mumbai Marathon in 2004, we had 800 full marathoners. This year we will have 7,000 full marathoners and each full marathon needs about six months of preparation time. That just shows that the entire culture of health and fitness is evolving,” said Singh.