2012 adidas Grand Prix NY: Making Track and Field Cool, An Interview with Daniel Magnus, Track Fan, by Larry Eder

Track and Field is Cool! An interview with Daniel Magnus, by Larry Eder

Liu Xiang, 2012 Shanghai DL, photo by PhotoRun.net

In trying to come up with some unique pieces for you, our dear readers, to read and consider, I chatted with Rich Kenah. Rich, the 1997 World bronze medalist, both indoors and outdoors, at the 800 meters, spends his days and nights promoting the sport of athletics. As partner with Mark Wetmore, Rich Kenah helps manage the adidas Grand Prix NYC, and the New Balance Boston GP. 

Rich put me in touch with Daniel Magnus, former CEO of Metro Newspapers, which was a long time sponsor of the Global Athletics event in NYC. Daniel and his son, then four, are total track hounds now, after witnessing the meet in 2007. 

There is much to learn from his experience. I believe, like many, that our sport has a history that dates back to early man. We have always respected those who could run, jump and throw farther than others. 

With those great spiritual ties with our sport, is it a matter of approaching the discussion of the sport in a different way? Read Daniel Magnus's comments and consider looking at our sport from a sport fans' eyes. 
Tyson Gay, 2010 AVIVA London, photo by PhotoRun.net

Runblogrun, #1. How did you meet with Rich Kenah and end up sponsoring the adidas Grand Prix (then, the Reebok GP)? 

Daniel Magnus: Rich was working with a guy named Jonathan Greengrass, who was  a friend of the editor of Metro. I was the Ceo of Metro in US at the time, the  largest group of regional alternative newspapers in the US. I was Not aware of the Reebok GP or world class track.  I did not run track, my brother was a track star. 

I was however, intrigued by the sport, and we became the sponsor of the
100 meters. I had never been to a track meet before 2007. Five years ago, 
my eldest son was four. He was so taken by the sport! It was fun to see. 
The experience was amazing. It was one of the greatest athletics
events I had ever seen. Since 2007, I have missed just one year! 

Rublogrun, # 2: Why was it one of the greatest athletics events you 
had ever seen? 

Daniel Magnus: It was the coolest sporting event that I have ever 
attended. There was the atmosphere, and crowd and the performances!

Runblogrun, #3: Tell us about your first track meet in 2007?

Daniel Magnus: My expectations were consistent. I expected to see some 
guys run fast. I did not have grand expectations. In the first race, a record 
was broken. That was amazing to me. It does not happen in other sports. I
thought, how did a human being run that fast? I do not think that translates
into other sports.  

It is not running, I go out and run, and chase my kids. This was something so incredibly exciting. There are times when you are at your best. What is astonishing is that if you are in that kind of shape, the ultimate race is not between you and the clock. 

It is something to do with, well, it feels like, seeing history.

The bulk of track & field, is really, really, about the person. It is 
so individual. What is it that allows the athlete to achieve nothing
anyone on the planet has done before, when they run that fast, or throw
that far, or jump that long?

Tyson Gay, 2011 adidas GP New York, photo by PhotoRun.net  

Runblogrun, #4: What about seeing Tyson run?

Daniel Magnus: We love Tyson. We headed up, after his race, to say hello. 
He was such a nice, down to earth guy. It did not matter that he broke the AR.
There was was just no arrogance, he just went out and did it. It was nice to see someone who is so physically talented and be like a nice person. Tyson signed autographs. I waswatching it live. There was something poetic about the experience. The athletes do what they do, and their movement is so measured. There was not a wasted motion in the races. The simplicity of the goal, to get from here to there as fast as possible, is easier said than done. 

Runblogrun, #5: Your son became a fan, why?

Daniel Magnus: My son got to meet Tyson, and he got his autograph. 
My son did a report on Tyson Gay at school. He was supposed to write
about a famous person. 

It came right after the adidas Grand Prix, It was a big deal for my son.
He connected with Tyson Gay, and also, the event. It is somethings that
kids can relate to. Running is such a natural thing.

I think that running makes a lot of sense to kids. It is the first competition 
that any kid has. They get it. It becomes very real, my son loved it. My son understood that you are pretty much away from anyone, you are competing against yourself. 

Liu Xiang, 2012 Shanghai DL, photo by PhotoRun.net

Runblogrun, #6: Tell us about watching Liu Xiang run so fast?

Daniel Magnus: Liu Xiang is a Chinese hurdler. He ran under 13 seconds, 
he was a big deal, he looked better than anyone else doing it. I learnt about him, wow, that guy has a beautiful way, he looked better as he raced. 

Runblogrun, # 7: You have been a marketer. How do you think that we should we sell the fun and the excitement of track and field?

Daniel Magnus: That is interesting, I left there so overwhelmed.  It is a great event. If you like seeing sports, this is not like watching a football. I can not give you the numbers of events. But, you see lots of individual competitions. You see a great challenges and worthy challenges. Track fans love competition. 

The Jamaicans understand that the sport is exciting. The Jamaican crowd in the stands at Randalls Island.  They love the adidas Grand Prix in Icahn Stadium. I can relate to that.
As a youth, I was a boxer. I made to US trials in 1980, but, by 1984, I I left it behind. I never really saw it! Boxing had become a rarified activity, where few made lots of money, but they did not realize that, by boxing out of network television, and putting it on pay TV or cable. People could not gain an affiliation with the athlete. 

I kind of think that track & field has a similar issue.Some people in track & field have a close relationship with key athletes. With those people, there is more of a personal attachment. It is part of what I saw at the adidas Grand Prix. I was astonished last year, when the event came and went, that people should be able to get it.

There is no reason why track & field can not succeed. It is so much a part of us. I  remember, when I was a kid, that PF Flyers made you run faster and jump higher. We always want to run faster. I do not view track & field as having a challenge in the US, like soccer. . Now, soccer does have a challenge, as in the US, we do not like to see a game decided on penalty kicks. We want competition.

Usain Bolt, 2012 Rome Golden Gala, photo by PhotoRun.net 

Runblogrun, #8: How do we build the sport?

Daniel Magnus: Maybe the sports not getting the top exposure, kind of like a chicken and the egg, how to build in this day and age? 

The best case scenario are guys like Usain Bolt. They capture a big piece of the Olympic story. Usain is a captivating type of character, he is crazy, he has long legs, and most did not have any idea that someone could run that fast! 

LoLo Jones, 2010 USA Outdoors, photo by PhotoRun.net

Runblogrun, #9: Tell us about LoLo Jones?

Daniel Magnus: Two weeks ago, I saw her with Bryant Gumble. Everything has to be right, and LoLo captures the imagination. She was the person that I remembered from the 2008 Olympics. LoLo Jones captured the imagination of the American people. 

With Liu Xiang, there is an ease and grace about him. Liu Xiang made it look easy. Like Michael Jordan, now and again, you see the reason why you were put on the earth to do something. Remember, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Runblogrun, #10: Any final thoughts on the sport, and on marketing the sport? 

Daniel Magnus: Every now and again, someone is so good at what they do, and, there is probably some divine intervention. You see that kind of thing with Usain Bolt. I love Tyson Gay, but he is running against a super human. 

It is fun to watch world records. World records are cool. 

I really don't believe that media gets it. You have to challenge the media. You have  to see what they are doing (the media), you have to let the media see and understand what is happening here. Twelve to fourteen premier events, held in Icahn Stadium, are used to attract native New Yorkers. 

Ethnic marketing has been a huge success in New York. The Jamaicans love their track athletes. The Chinese came when Liu Xiang arrived. That shows that, appealing to various groups, fans of events, might be the way to go, to make the sport more popular.

Thumbnail image for Gay_TysonR-LondonDL10.JPG
 Tyson Gay, 2010 AVIVA London, photo by PhotoRun.net

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