SBJ/Aug. 25-31, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Mazda signs up to Rock ’n’ Roll

Competitor Group, owner of the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, has signed a deal with Mazda, making the auto manufacturer an official partner for all North American races.

The deal is valued in the mid-to-high six-figure range and runs through this year’s final 12 North American events. It includes all 24 North American Rock ’n’ Roll events in 2015.

The deal represents a step forward for Competitor Group, which had been without a serieswide auto sponsor since 2011, when Dodge chose not renew. Competitor Group brought Mazda into the Rock ’n’ Roll events in 2013 for a four-race trial sponsorship, and the carmaker recently expanded to a full series sponsorship this summer.

“It is a big commitment from a big company,” said David Abeles, CEO of Competitor Group. “I think it further validates the visibility and access of our races.”

Mazda will activate at all 24 North American Rock ’n’ Roll events, and the auto company will receive advertising space across Competitor Group’s various digital and print media assets, which include Competitor Magazine and Competitor.com.

Mazda’s activation includes the creation of a team of amateur athletes who will participate in the races, as well as a partnership with running personality Dorothy Beal. Beal operates the popular “Mile Posts” running blog.

Russell Wager, vice president of marketing for Mazda, said the partnership allows Mazda to meet customers within their “passion points.”

The deal comes amid a strategy shift for the Rock ’n’ Roll series, which traditionally has included single-day marathon and half-marathon races. The series is expanding each race into a multiday running festival that includes shorter 5K and 10K races, as well as concerts and a running expo.

Abeles said the introduction of shorter races and other events is part of the company’s goal to expand beyond hard-core runners.

“We want to provide an experience for friends and family of our [marathon] runners,” Abeles said. “Our events are for everyone now.”

The series will debut its new festival format at the Nov. 16 Rock ’n’ Roll marathon in Las Vegas. The SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino is the presenting sponsor of the 5K race there. Six other Rock ’n’ Roll races will boast the festival format in 2014, with the entire 24-race North American series switching to the format in 2015.

Bill Pedigo, chief revenue officer for Competitor Group, said the expansion is not changing the company’s core sponsorship strategy. While the expanded events will create new assets, he said the company’s priority is still to sell serieswide sponsorships to mainstream brands.

“We’re not seeing these [shorter events] as new inventory to sell, but opportunities to engage partners in a deeper way,” Pedigo said. “We want fewer partners who are really invested in the series.”

But Pedigo said the company would sell one-off sponsorships at the events, depending on the level of interest within the marketplace.

“There will be some markets that are unique,” he said.

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.

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