SBJ/20100607/This Week's News

Dodge’s sponsorship of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series targets healthy lifestyle segment

Chrysler’s Dodge unit’s first major sponsorship since emerging from bankruptcy protection last year is not a traditional stick and ball sport, but rather the thriving business of endurance running.

Dodge will pay a mid- to high-seven-figure annual sum to sponsor the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series, which focuses on the amateur runner more than the professional one.

“This is the first time that the brand is sponsoring endurance sports at this level,” said Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge Brand, Chrysler Group, in an e-mail response to questions about the deal. “The running industry is completely in line with the Dodge Brand customer, and this partnership enables the brand to be completely integrated into these marathons from a comprehensive standpoint.”

Dodge will unveil a new line of cars this fall with
its sponsorship of the 14-city series.

While Dodge’s current premier sponsorship, NASCAR, is geared toward auto racing enthusiasts, its new endurance racing sponsorship is directed at another category: the soccer mom.

“They believe in the healthy lifestyle, well-educated, high household income we can deliver,” said Scott Dickey, president of the Competitor Group Inc., which owns the 14-city marathon series. “It’s split men and women, with a high propensity for marriage and kids.”

Dodge will pick up title sponsorship of five races next year and will be the official automotive partner and vehicle of the whole series. This year, it will have that designation for three events and one title.

No media rights are attached to the sponsorship, Dickey said, though discussions are under way between the parties about a supplemental deal involving CGI’s magazines.

Dodge, which will use the sponsorship to unveil a new line of cars coming out this fall, will get branding and vehicles on site, a presence in the health and wellness expos that occur prior to the races, and placement in all communications to runners. Dodge also plans a heavy emphasis on social media in its activation, the details of which are not yet available.

Neither side used a sports marketing agency for the agreement. The deal, Dickey said, was triggered by a call from CGI’s lead East Coast representative, Rebecca McKinnon.

After filing for bankruptcy protection in May 2009, Chrysler did away with some of its more-renowned sports sponsorships, including its title sponsorship of golf’s Bob Hope Classic and its longtime sponsorship of the right-field “baggie” wall at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Dodge chose to diminish its NASCAR programs, as it decreased both its financial commitments to teams and its on-track promotions. Penske Racing now represents Dodge’s lone effort in the top-level Sprint Cup Series.

For CGI, the deal marks the latest business development, having quickly expanded the series in the last few years, adding sponsors like Brooks, Zappos and Amway. This week, CGI is expected to announce it has bought half-marathons in Pittsburgh and Columbus, as well.

CGI is owned by New York investment fund Falconhead Capital.

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