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Volume 20 No. 42
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The first step: NYC Marathon getting its own opening day

In looking to expand its footprint and visibility throughout the year, the New York Road Runners will debut a new event this Wednesday built around the entrance lottery for the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.

Called “Marathon Opening Day,” the event features a live half-hour webcast — complete with a 300-member audience in Columbus Circle — where the club will announce between 8,000 and 10,000 lottery winners for the 2011 race.

“We view it as marathon’s answer to the NFL draft — it’s a very suspenseful moment,” said Mary Wittenberg, CEO of the New York Road Runners. “We felt like it could be a great marketing platform for our partners.”

Wittenberg said the NYRR previously ran an online drawing for the entries, and posted the results on the club’s website. In 2009, the heavy traffic prompted the club to run a trial webcast for the 2010 marathon’s lottery hosted by Wittenberg and local NBC commentator Bruce Beck.

Local NBC commentators Beck and Cat Greenleaf will host Wednesday’s event, which will be held outside and broadcast on the NYRR website. During the webcast they will award marathon entries to 10 of the 300 audience members on air. Broadcast partner NBC will promote the event with an advertising campaign on city taxis and on the PATH train in New York City and New Jersey. Wittenberg said the NYRR’s long-term goal is to broadcast the event live on TV, and to create a springtime “bookend” for the spring-through-fall marathon season.

Ann Wells-Crandall, NYRR executive vice president for business development and strategy, said the “opening day” event, as well as the NYRR’s decision to reschedule its sponsorship forum from June to March, has helped the organization sell and renew sponsorships. Wells-Crandall said the organization had previously lost out on partnership opportunities due to its late selling schedule.

For 2011-12, NYRR has signed a five-year renewal with Asics, which produces the official marathon apparel and sponsors video boards along the course. The club also has renewed Coors Light, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Poland Spring and Grana Padano Cheese for three years, respectively; United Airlines and Dunkin’ Donuts for two years; and Subway for one year.

In addition, the club has signed the Indonesia tourism board and Nu Skin as new partners.