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SBD/November 2, 2012/Events and Attractions
N.Y. Marathon Could Face Damage To Brand By Holding Race Amid Controversy
Published November 2, 2012
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RACE CAN UNITE THE CITY: Runners’ World Editor-in-Chief David Willey said a marathon is unique in that it can unite a city unlike any other sporting event. But even Willey recognized the need for somberness. He noted, for example, that the magazine’s annual midtown party scheduled for Friday night -- happening just blocks from where a crane hangs damaged 90 stories above the city -- has been downscaled into a meeting place for runners to congregate. For the NYRR, which has grown exponentially under President & CEO Mary Wittenberg, the race is a major money maker, pulling in $30-40M annually, a sum that funds most of the nonprofit group’s budget. Themes of health and fitness, charity, and celebration adorn the image of the marathon, so the storm controversy is a significant challenge to overcome. The group is donating $1 million to storm recovery efforts. Title sponsor ING is donating $500,000. The marathon is not, however, letting any runners roll over their entry fee to next year should they choose to defer their participation -- whether because they cannot make it to N.Y. or because they feel racing is the wrong thing to do. Instead, any such runners will have to pay a new fee, an amount that commonly is in the hundreds of dollars. “That is wrong,” said Scott Lange, a veteran marketer who formerly was CMO for NYRR and now is with The Active Network. While he agreed with the decision to race, saying in effect that NYRR had no choice once the mayor gave his approval, Lange said the entry fee choice sends a poor message that the NYRR would financially ding runners who could not, or who choose not, to run. Willey, though, noted how expensive it is for the NYRR to stage the race, with the city recently having upped its tab for police. "The race,” he said, “has been under pressure with rising costs.”