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Volume 23 No. 18
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LA Marathon looks to join top U.S. races

Officials with the LA Marathon are trying to jump-start an ambitious plan to expand the race’s sponsorship portfolio to a level equal with the big three of U.S. marathons: New York City, Chicago and Boston.

As part of that effort, in the next two years the race will host the 2015 U.S. National Marathon Championships and the 2016 U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials.

“It’s a long-term vision of where we want to take the event,” said Tracey Russell, CEO of the LA Marathon. “We want companies to say, ‘Wow, this is a real sleeping giant.’”

The LA Marathon, however, faces multiple hurdles in its push to rise to the level of the other races. In 2014 it attracted approximately 26,000 participants, compared to New York City (50,000), Chicago (40,000) and Boston (36,000).

New York, Chicago and Boston also command sums of seven to low-eight figures for their premier partnerships, enjoying long-term deals with companies in the financial services and technology categories, and have lower-tier deals with major airlines, telecommunications companies and insurance companies, among others.

The Asics LA Marathon attracted about 26,000 participants last year.
The LA Marathon, by comparison, has a three-year title deal with shoe manufacturer Asics, which runs through 2015. That deal is valued in the seven figures annually, according to industry sources. The race’s second-tier sponsors include food processing company NutriBullet, sports nutrition company Clif Bar and sporting goods retailer Big 5, among others. Sources pegged those deals in the mid-to-high six figures.

Russell, who joined the race in 2013, believes that increasing the race’s participation and international brand recognition will attract new partners. Hosting the 2015 national championships and 2016 Olympic trials will attract high-profile U.S. runners to the race, and their presence should expand its overall media footprint, Russell said.

“It’s an opportunity to tell our story to different brands,” she said.

Russell recently hired Mark Scoggins as vice president of business development to oversee the sponsorship push with more mainstream companies. Scoggins, who joined the race in August, spent more than two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers as an executive vice president, and also sold corporate partnerships in Los Angeles for Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Scoggins called the race’s current sponsorship landscape an “open canvas of opportunities.” He hopes to sign two to three “premier” partners to multiyear deals within the next 30 days. Scoggins said he’s targeting deals in the telecommunications and consumer technology categories. He also is working with Los Angeles municipal services and utilities companies.

“Transit systems, gas companies, water are all on our radar,” Scoggins said. “There’s so much opportunity for local messaging about transportation and health.”

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.