SBJ/September 3-9, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NFL ties road races to start of season

    The NFL is working with racing company Competitor Group to create a leaguewide series of running events as part of the seasonal return of football, with an initial soft launch of the concept having started with four teams this preseason.

    Competitor Group, which operates the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, is staging this year’s four races and expects to significantly expand the number of participating clubs in the next few years. The company also is in talks with league sponsors Nike and Gatorade about sponsoring the new series.

    The Titans’ 5K race Aug. 25 finished at LP Field.
    Photo by: DONN JONES
    “It is a way to engage a broader set of fans,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s vice president of fan strategy and marketing. “We love the idea of building a series of runs tied into everything we are doing with health and wellness and Back to Football [the league’s season lead-in tag].”

    The NFL is using a website at NFLrunseries.com to spotlight the events. Races tied to the Tennessee Titans and San Diego Chargers have already occurred, with events for the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams scheduled for the coming week.

    For Competitor Group, which is owned by New York equity fund Falconhead Capital, the budding series meshes its goals with the NFL’s health and wellness efforts, including the league’s Play 60 effort aimed at kids.

    “We are extremely excited about our partnership with the league and the opportunity to build the NFL Run Series over the next couple years,” said Scott Dickey, Competitor Group’s president and chief executive.

    Competitor Group already has an official tie to the NFL as sponsor of the 2014 Super Bowl host committee. Company officials proposed the race series concept to the NFL at the league’s team marketers meetings in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this year.

    Teams are not restricted to working with Competitor Group for any running events they might want to organize. In fact, last week’s inaugural NFL Back to Football Run and related NFL Play 60 Fun Run in Central Park were organized by New York Road Runners. The league envisions a similar league-based effort occurring in the home market of the Super Bowl champion each year.

    Tennessee was one of four races staged this year.
    Photo by: DONN JONES
    New York Road Runners was used last week in part for its expertise in staging Central Park races and also because of its ties to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. However, Competitor Group is easily the largest U.S. racing company, with 83 events globally, 75 of which are in the United States and many in NFL cities. It also has a national racing database as well as publications such as Triathlete and Velo News to offer the NFL for marketing and outreach.

    “We are the only entity in the world that can do this [multirace initiative] because of our scale,” said David Moross, chairman and chief executive of Falconhead.

    While the NFL is supporting Competitor Group, it is not dictating to the 32 teams that they all must do the races. One of the league’s core philanthropic missions, however, is combating obesity, a movement that most teams have embraced.

    Up to half of the league’s 32 teams could be offering races leading into the season by next year, and most if not all of them by 2014, according to both league and Competitor Group officials.

    The first four scheduled races — each ending at the 50-yard line of the participating team’s stadium — offered local sponsorship opportunities for the clubs. Beyond those extensions, though, Dickey said Competitor Group is building a model that serves to offer national sponsorship opportunities.

    Among other leagues, MLB has featured a charity 5K and fun run event as part of its activities around its All-Star Game the past several years. This year’s event drew 8,000 runners and included Nike and Gatorade among its sponsors.

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