SBJ/October 26 - November 1, 1998/No Topic Name

Sponsors running to NYC Marathon

"Welcome to the belly of the beast," Scott Lange quips upon greeting visitors these days at the New York Road Runners Club Inc.'s Manhattan headquarters.

The 29th annual running of the New York City Marathon is in six days, and Lange, the chief marketing officer for the club, which organizes the race, seems at times more engaged in a military campaign than in orchestrating a race.

With $10.7 million in revenue culled from sponsors, merchandising and the more than 30,000 runners, this is no Sunday jog in the park. This is big business.

More than 10,000 people will travel to New York from overseas through NYRRC-sanctioned tour operators. Vendors in 80,000 square feet of exhibition space will hawk sporting goods during a four-day marathon exposition. Local television station WPIX will spend $1 million on Sunday for its five hours of coverage. And more than 15,000 employees and volunteers will work on race day.

That is not to mention the millions of spectators who will line the streets of New York, the 75,000 cups of Cafe de Columbia coffee served to runners at the starting area and the 24 sponsors whose products and banners will adorn the race course. In total, the event is expected to have a $104 million economic impact on the New York City area.

"The marathon is run like a kind and gentle military operation," Lange said. "It's like a mini-Desert Storm."

The total cost for the Road Runners club will be nearly $8 million. But after WPIX and other partners take their share of the revenues, the organization will be left with a sum just north of $1 million — and that does not include the club's labor costs.

The bulk of the race will be financed by sponsors, who are attracted to the marathon's international diversity and its role as one of New York's premier sporting events. The demographics are also very appealing: 77 percent of the runners last year were college educated and 40 percent went to graduate school, according to the NYRRC.

As a result, the major sponsors will each spend well into six figures to attach their name to the marathon.

"It really takes quite a unique individual to run the marathon, and that translates into someone's lifestyle and who that person is in their work and business. And they are a very attractive [demographic] group," said Barbara Paddock, head of event marketing for Chase Manhattan Corp., which has sponsored the race since 1976. "This is one of our cornerstone events."

Also back this year are Nike Inc.; John Hancock Financial Services; Gatorade; and PowerBar/PowerGel. Out are Advil (replaced by Aleve) and Jansen Pharmaceutical (replaced by Lamasil).

Continental Airlines will sponsor a laser light show depicting the marathon's history. The presentations, one in each of the city's five boroughs, will begin today and last through Saturday.

"We were looking for something that would give us added exposure but not on marathon day itself," said Kathleen Yarborough, the airline's promotion manager. "There is a lot of stuff going on that Sunday, so we [wanted] signature exposure."

One theme of this year's marathon is the 100th anniversary of the merger of New York City's five boroughs. The marathon, which has run through all five since 1976, also has a new slogan this year: "Where the world comes to run." The five runners in the logo represent the five boroughs.

The Road Runners Club spent $1 million this year on advertising, plastering 60,000 posters across the city and on city buses carrying that new slogan. The club advertises little overseas, however, except through the tour operators who bring international runners to the race.

Also new this year is the expanded marathon exposition, which moved from the New York Coliseum to the Show Piers near the aircraft carrier Intrepid. The new facility will have more than 20,000 square feet of added space and will accommodate 120 exhibitors and 400 booths — 70 more than the previous year.

The expo is expected to generate $1 million in sales. Sales through NYRRC catalogs and licensing are expected to bring in an additional $500,000. With runners chipping in another $1.5 million, the club's budget is at a record high.

Lange for one will be relieved when it is all over. "It is best to interview me in August, when I am normal."

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