SBD/October 3, 2013/Events and Attractions

Competitor Group Rankles Running Industry By Dropping Appearance Fees For Elites

Athletes' appearance fees generally range widely from race to race
Competitor Group's recent decision to no longer pay appearance fees to elite runners was "met with indignation and might leave some holes at the front of the pack during the fall marathon season," according to Mary Pilon of the N.Y. TIMES. The decision "roiled those in the road running industry who believe the struggling sport needs more money, not less, for its top athletes." Appearance fees "range widely from race to race -- some major events pay runners tens of thousands of dollars." Some runners "earn a large portion of their income from the fees, while others receive most of their income from sponsors." Appearance fees have "long been used to attract elite runners who can add credibility to a race," but some race organizers "seem to be concluding that their money is best spent on the swelling masses of recreational runners, most of whom pay little attention to the front-runners." Competitor President & CEO Scott Dickey said that his company "would continue to cover the costs of elite athletes’ travel and lodging expenses, as well as provide prize money to top finishers." Dickey said the decision to remove appearance fees had been “an ongoing debate within our organization for years,” but added, “It’s not an easy discussion.” N.Y. Road Runners President & CEO Mary Wittenberg said that several large endurance events, including the N.Y. Marathon, "will continue to pay appearance fees, concurrent with their missions as nonprofits developing the sport at all levels." Track & Field Athletes Association President Adam Nelson said, "Competitor Group is backed by professional money. And professional money is more concerned about their return on investment than satisfying another mission. Any time you see money leaving the sport, it’s scary" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/3).

ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, TATA: IT company Tata Consultancy Services yesterday agreed on an eight-year deal to title sponsor the N.Y. Marathon, and company CEO & Managing Dir Natarajan Chandrasekaran said that the sponsorship "coincided with the company’s internal fitness programs and would allow the company to make its presence more known" in the U.S. The N.Y. TIMES' Pilon & Belson note TCS has been a technology consulting partner for NYRR since '10 and will "develop a new mobile app for this year’s marathon." Wittenberg said, “It’s the next evolution, a premier partnership and a significant lift to the organization. It will bring in more sponsorship and allow for a low cost and flexibility for runners. The partnership and sponsorship is important to our mission and enabling runners.” Pilon & Belson write given its business, TCS is "presumably trying to raise its profile with executives who might be running the New York City Marathon or watching it on television." In that sense, its sponsorship "is not much different from those by IBM, SAP and other large technology firms that sponsor tennis, golf and other sporting events." But unlike ING, which "connected with runners through its retirement and wealth management businesses, it may be harder for Tata to connect directly with runners" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/3).
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