SBJ/March 28-April 3, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

With Madrid, Competitor looks to expand abroad

The endurance sports media and event company Competitor Group Inc. has acquired the Madrid Marathon with the goal of expanding its popular Rock ’n’ Roll marathon series into Europe and Asia.

The Madrid Marathon was first held in 1978 and now includes a shorter 10K race, with both events attracting a combined 15,000 runners. David Moross, executive chairman of Competitor Group and chairman and CEO of Falconhead Capital, said the acquisition is the first step in CGI’s plan to acquire more global running events.

“We have a ubiquitous product, and we can go to Europe and employ the same strategy, so there is really no reason not to do it,” Moross said. “We have to go global with this thing.”

Currently CGI operates 20 Rock ’n’ Roll races in the United States, including nine full-length marathons. The Rock ’n’ Roll concept showcases local bands and musical performers along all 26.2 miles of the race, creating a party atmosphere for participants. CGI either creates new events, such as the Latin Music 1/2 Marathon in Miami, or brings its marketing and music concept to existing races, such as the Denver Marathon.

“Our sweet spot is the back-of-the-pack runner who is doing it for fun,” said Bouker Pool, CGI’s senior vice president of marketing.

“[Rock ’n’ Roll] is very popular with women,” said Mary Wittenberg, CEO of the New York Road Runners. “They are smart to go to Madrid because the female [running] market in Europe is untapped.”

In Madrid, CGI purchased the event and its operations team, called Elipse Iniciativas, which will continue to operate the marathon. The 2011 Madrid race, scheduled for April 17, will not showcase the Rock ’n’ Roll branding.

Moross said CGI has letters of intent from six other major European marathons to join the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series, including events in the U.K., France, Italy and Switzerland. He also said the company is looking to acquire one of the five World Marathon Major events — New York City, Boston, Chicago, Berlin and London — but declined to discuss which race the company will pursue.

“Our goal is to triple the size of [the Madrid Marathon],” said Moross, who said CGI will promote the European race to its 800,000 or so North American participants. “We want to find destination cities where we can bring up the bottom-line impact by putting heads in beds.”

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