Marathons set for race to the top

Updated: 2015-08-25 07:54

By Sun Xiaochen(China Daily)

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Marathons set for race to the top

Amateur runners pass Tian'anmen Square during the 10-kilometer mini-marathon on the sidelines of the 15th IAAF World Championships, held in Beijing on Aug 22, 2015. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

Commercial gold mine

Despite the immature infrastructure, the huge numbers of participants and extensive TV coverage have seen city marathons attract interest from businesses, in the sports sector and outside, who are keen to promote their brands through sponsorship, which has boosted event revenues.

Having successfully marketed four of the seven stages of the Season Run series as well as other major sporting competitions, Wisdom's sports event operations earned 107 million yuan ($16.7 million) in the first half of this year, a year-on-year rise of 50 percent, accounting for 40 percent of the company's revenue in the period.

According to a report in Southern Metropolis Daily, last year's Guangzhou Marathon generated marketing revenue of 80 million yuan, mainly from sponsors-including the Japanese automaker Toyota and the sports equipment brand Xtep-almost four times the cost of staging the event.

"Almost every running event we have operated in recent years has been profitable or, in the worst scenario, has broken even," said Sheng Jie, Wisdom's head of financial affairs.

Tan Jianxiang, a professor of sports sociology at South China Normal University in Guangzhou, said sponsors and advertisers are eager to exploit this new revenue stream. "Sponsoring marathons is a rewarding investment for companies, given the intense media exposure and the scale of the crowds attracted, not to mention post-event consumption at tourist sites and hotels."

According to the Municipal Bureau of Statistics in Xiamen, Fujian province, the 2014 Xiamen International Marathon generated about 261 million yuan for the local tourism industry.

Moreover, in addition to sponsoring events, some companies have also helped to organize them.

Last year, New Balance, the US sports clothing and footwear manufacturer, became an active partner of the International Management Group and helped to bring the Color Run, a global series of 5-km fun runs, to China.

"The Chinese athletics and lifestyle markets are where we are trying to position ourselves as a lifestyle brand. Running is part of that lifestyle, and everything is anchored on running so we need to maintain that as our core business," said Darren Tucker, the company's vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region.

Once the province of local governments and sports bureaus, marathons now offer an eye-catching marketing platform for a wide range of businesses, according to Ren of Wisdom.

"When an increasing number of non-sports enterprises, such as a brand of cooking oil, starts to tap into the (mass sports event) market, you know that a new dawn is coming for China's sports industry," she said.

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