The press release below, announces the worst kept secret in our sport-Nike and Bank of America are the new sponsors of the Chicago Marathon, now known as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Face it, when the folks at Nike want something, they do have a fairly large check book. The sponsorship of New Balance of Chicago ran out, and Nike made the move and very bold one at that, educated word on the street suggesting that Nike's sponsorship of Bank of America Chicago is the most expensive sponsorship of footwear and apparel in North America, reportedly more than doubling the amount any other marathon has received for such a deal.
Nike's sponsorship of this event, rumored for months, is the first entree for the Swoosh back into a major marathon in the U.S. that they did not develop. As of today, adidas has a long time deal with the BAA Boston (as well as Flora London, and -real, Berlin), ASICS has ING New York, Flying Pig and Big Sur, Saucony has Honda's City of LA Marathon, New Balance has the Elite Racing Marathon series.(I also believe that Spira has worked out a deal for the WDW Marathon and Half Marathon).
It is one thing to sponsor a race. It is another to do it effectively. Sponsoring footwear and apparel in a major race is a mulit million dollar endeavor. From marketing, to sales promotion, to product, to marketing materials, major races see their footwear and apparel sponsors looking at several million dollars plus to get getter value
However, in the food chain of marathon sponsorships, the cappo du tutti frutti are BAA Boston, ING New York, B of A Chicago in terms of North American
numbers, and sponsorships paid.
The B of A Chicago's exhibit space is the best exhibit in North America, in this bloggers' estimation, in terms of service to consumer, room to walk around and care taken to give the marathoners a relaxed walking flow (except the last day, like all marathons), and a flooring that does not beat the heck out of their quads and hams two days before a major marathon. Carey Pinkowski, Mike Nishi and the team have taken a race, over the past fifteen years, and made it a race by which other marathons are judged. The attention to detail like, checking the blue line at two in the morning on race day, insuring that nothing has been changed in the set up. It is this attention to details, that goes unheralded. Think about this: The field at a Major Marathon is about the size of a small city--the management at any of these meets is moving nearly three times the size of my town! Moving a group of 30,000 plus challenges the resources!
Each major marathon has its special treats, for B of A Chicago, the special focus of Nike and their Nike plus coaching program will be a first. The majority of runners here are citizen runners and they know that they will be treated well on the course. Smarter training leading up to the race cuts up on injuries and makes the experience of the marathon that much more exhilarating.
Just why is Chicago so special? First, 40,000 plus runners, with perhaps same number turned away each year. The Bank of American is the key to running in Mid America, in that the race has citizen runners who come back, year after year, and run in weather that is cold, hot, really cold and grossly humid and hot. They must have the desire to train to do it in the Midwest.
Secondly, the potential to learn about a group this size would make marketers at any company drool. A crowd with good pocketbooks, with a high percentage of women, who are focused on training and their lives look good to companies like B of A and Nike. Yes, dear friends, they might like running, but running is a huge business builder and a huge business in North America.
I will be fascinated to see how the training tools that Nike is releasing will be used by this crew of marathoners.