SBJ/September 30 - October 6, 2002/This Weeks Issue

Airline rebooking with NYC Marathon

Continental Airlines reached an agreement in principle to renew its sponsorship of the New York City Marathon for another four years after this autumn's race, at a cost of mid-six figures annually plus free tickets for elite runners and marathon personnel.

The airline also plans to announce today a sweepstakes on eBay for its frequent-flier members that will allow them to bid on marathon-related prizes, including riding in the lead car on race day (Nov. 3). The airline has similar programs with six major league sports teams, including the New York Yankees. This year, a winner bid 247,000 frequent-flier miles for a luxury suite for himself and 38 friends at a Yankees game.

Continental officials expect the top marathon prize, including the lead car seat, to go for around 100,000 frequent-flier miles, or the equivalent of one round-trip, first-class ticket to Europe.

Continental will continue its sponsorship of several events during marathon weekend, including the Mayor's Cup, a competition between New York firefighters and police during the big race.

The airline has bought more than 20 30-second ads during race weekend on WNBC, which broadcasts the marathon locally, including 16 spots on Nov. 3 alone.

While the New York Road Runners, the club that stages and owns the race, touts the event's international appeal, Continental said the primary benefit of the sponsorship is local.

"The ability to move market share in New York is the greatest source of revenue we could achieve," said Kevin Gallagher, the airline's manager of sponsorship marketing. "We want people to understand the scope of the services we have in New York."

Continental, which will have been a marathon sponsor for eight years after this year's running, is one of 29 race sponsors but is among the top seven as designated by the Road Runners.

Mary Wittenberg, the New York Road Runners' chief operating officer, said the eBay initiative marks the club's first Internet venture with a sponsor to promote the marathon.

Elite NYC Marathon sponsors


Continental Airlines

Foot Locker

J.P. Morgan Chase

The New York Times

Rudin Family

Runner's World magazine

Source: New York Road Runners

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