Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 23 No. 17
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

NBC Sports Ventures inks Spartan Race marketing/media pact

NBC Sports Ventures has added another business to its portfolio by signing a joint marketing and media rights agreement with obstacle-race organizer Spartan Race. 

The deal gives NBC the exclusive broadcast, cable and digital rights to the Reebok Spartan Race series. It also becomes the exclusive sponsorship sales arm for Spartan Race’s 40-plus competitions, which attract more than 500,000 participants annually. 

Six Spartan Race events will be shown on NBC networks annually.

In exchange, Spartan Race will have six races broadcast annually and receive promotional spots on NBC’s national and regional sports networks. All of its races will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra. 

NBC and Spartan Race will share sponsorship revenue, though they did not reveal the split. NBC will receive a percentage of any increases in revenue Spartan Race receives from an uptick in participation. 

Spartan Race’s sales team had sold all event sponsorships. NBC Sports Ventures will now manage national sales; Spartan Race will manage local and regional efforts.

The agreement adds another series to NBC Sports Ventures’ roster. The division handles sponsorship sales and broadcasts the Red Bull Signature Series and Lucas Oil Motocross Championships. It also manages and sells sponsorships around the NBC-owned Dew Tour. It now adds a series that features people scaling walls, slogging through mud and ducking under barbed wire in races that can last several hours. 

“We first started looking broadly at this area of participatory and endurance sports a little over a year ago,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, NBC Sports Ventures senior vice president. “We were looking for areas where the level of engagement was a rung or two higher than our other sports media businesses. For the people engaged with [Spartan Race] today, it’s a lifestyle. We want to tap into that passion and engagement.”

Spartan Race CEO Joe De Sena said the deal will increase brand awareness for the company by exposing its competitions to more consumers and attracting more sponsors that also tout the events. 

“This makes what’s still a fringe sport more mainstream,” De Sena said of the series he founded in 2010. “It legitimizes us.” NBC Sports Ventures plans to look for sponsors in the automotive, beverage, electronics and point-of-view camera categories. Spartan Race will have a say in what sponsors are signed. 

Reebok was critical to getting the deal done. The title sponsor of Spartan Race increased its marketing spend for its sponsorship, and NBC will use that money to cover production costs for event broadcasts. 

NBC broadcast last year’s Spartan Race World Championship on NBCSN in December and drew 120,000 viewers. 

Simmelkjaer, who competed in a Spartan Race last year while NBC was exploring a deal, said that key to increasing that total will be the production quality of the broadcasts. NBC has hired Transition Productions for race coverage. They will produce five races for NBCSN and one for NBC. 

“They get the ethos of this and understand the importance of storytelling of athletes beyond their performances,” Simmelkjaer said. “People are going to watch because they haven’t seen anything like it.”