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Mumbai Marathon: Ten years on the run

By Rashmi Menon , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | January 21, 2013
The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon has become an integral part of the city's life. Understanding why it is the darling of many brands.

Newton was right: Each action has an equal and opposite reaction - and this is true not just as a law of physics but as a rule for society as well. As obesity and other health issues hit people in large numbers, even more of them are flooding to local gyms and other forms of exercise. That explains why the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM), concluded yesterday, just can't stop growing. Ten years into the run, neither participants nor sponsors can get enough of it.

Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon Race

African runners have been increasingly participating in SCMM

Participants under the banner of Title sponsor Standard Chartered in Mumbai marathon

More than 40,000 people - about as many as live a small town - including celebrities of all kinds ran yesterday in Mumbai. There were also senior citizens, corporate participants and the disabled. According to Procam International, which organises the run, it ranks among the top 10 marathons in the world. The Mumbai success has also instigated the birth of other city marathons in India: among them, in Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Navi Mumbai, Varodara and Hyderabad.

Runners come in all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. This explains why there is a variety of runs to choose from. Today, SCMM is split into five categories - Full Marathon (42.2 km), Half Marathon (21.1 km), Dream Run (6 km), Senior Citizen Run (4.3 km) and Champions with Disability (2 km). Most of the run is in south Mumbai with a little spilling over to Mahim and Bandra. Participants pay a registration fee ranging from a low of Rs 300 up to Rs 900 for those doing either the full or the half marathon. The race begins at 5.40 am with the full marathon finishing by noon. For perspective, the winner of a full marathon would typically take roughly two hours and ten minutes.

Serious Money

It's been, in every sense, a long journey to success. Procam's vice president, Ajit Ravindran, says that it was hard to get the idea off the ground at the beginning. "It is usually very difficult to find a sponsor who believes in your vision completely. And, to get a partner who matched our belief and vision took three years," he says. When they did get Standard Chartered to back the idea, it proved to be an enduring relationship: the bank has been the title sponsor for all the ten years.

"From the brand point of view, we have been able to hold on to all our partners since inception, which speaks for the event. We have also been able to get new brands to associate with us," Ravindran says. For instance, Star Plus has been telecasting the marathon live from start to finish for the last two years.

Ajit Ravindran

Sumeet Singla

Sumeet Singla, regional head, corporate affairs, India & South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, says, "Our vision was to create a cornerstone event, one that would grow in magnitude and elicit increasing participation from the people of Mumbai with every passing year." The marathon, he says, reaffirmed the bank's core brand values - Here for people, Here for progress, Here for the long run, Here for good. The bank's punt on growth has certainly proved right: from the initial 22,000 participants the marathon now gets enrolments in excess of its maximum capacity of 40,000.

Sure, it's a mammoth event. However, by Indian standards, the sponsorship sums aren't small. afaqs! spoke with a number of professionals involved in sports marketing. The ballpark figures: participants cumulatively pay about Rs 3 crore in participation fees. Standard Chartered will probably cough up about Rs 4-5 crore for the title sponsorship while associate sponsor TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) will pay about half that amount. The rest of the sponsors will add up to about Rs 10 crore, taking the total revenue from the marathon to somewhere upward of Rs 20 crore.

Why do sponsors love the event? Ravindran reasons that in participative sports such as the marathon, people are much more involved and connected, as they are going through the grind, unlike a spectator sports were they are mere viewers. That apart, it is widely photographed and televised. And the fact that it is out there in the streets allows watchers to feel involved in a special way quite different from watching a sport while seated in a stadium.

Ravindran points out that "one of the key features is that it offers category ownership to the sponsors". Besides this, Procam also offers soft values like the media coverage in terms of public relations, human resources that comes indirectly from sponsoring the marathon.

Brand visibility apart, there is a feel good factor in that SCMM has become the largest charity generating platform in India. According to Procam, in 2012 it helped raise over Rs 16 crore, its highest ever collection for charity.

Many of the brands that have associated with the Mumbai Marathon have also got involved with Procam's other properties such as the Sunfeast Bangalore 10 K marathon and the Airtel Delhi half marathon. Though sponsorship rates have escalated, the run has got bigger too with many events woven around it including two press conferences, a pre-event party, pasta launch with celebrity chefs, socialites and international brand ambassadors, all of which add value to sponsors and brands.

Brand Fit

According to Singla, Standard Chartered is associated with nine major marathons across the world in which about 3 lakh people participate in total. "We are proud to say that the Mumbai Marathon is one of the largest (and most prestigious) one amongst our global marathons," he says.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been the associate sponsor of SCMM since 2008. A company spokesperson reasons that marathons are a great platform for employee engagement, corporate social responsibility activities and reaching out to the wider community.

TCS has also developed the official mobile app for the marathon, which is available on the iOS (iPhone operating system), Windows and Android platforms. The company is also associated with TCS World 10K, TCS Amsterdam Marathon, as well as the Berlin, New York, Boston and Chicago marathons. In Mumbai, around 1,500 people participate under the TCS banner in various categories every year.

V D Wadhwa

Samar Singh Shekhawat

Timex has been the official timing partner in Mumbai for two years and also plays that role in the Bangalore and Delhi marathons. V D Wadhwa, managing director and CEO, Timex Group India, says, "Timex has always encouraged running as a sport and has been closely involved with marathons. We have associated with marathons with a cause, as they sync well with our global brand philosophy," Wadhwa says. Timex says its own values of time, precision, technology, movement and social responsibility are synchronized with it. Timex is the timing partner in many other such events, including the Virgin London marathon, BMW Berlin marathon and ING New York City marathon.

BMW has associated with SCMM for the second year as the official car. At this year's event, the auto company unveiled BMW X6 as the marathon's lead car, while BMW X1 and BMW 3 series were used as lead cars for the half marathon and the dream run, respectively. For BMW, the marathon helps promote its EfficientDynamics which reduces fuel consumption, lowers emissions and increases driving pleasure. BMW has been associated with various marathons across the world for the last 25 years including those in Berlin, Frankfurt and Singapore.

For some, SCMM goes beyond just the sponsorship cost. Kingfisher Premium, the official good times partner of the marathon, has been associated since the beginning. It distributes its packaged water to all participants, which is also available in the water stations on the race track. Besides, the brand organises a pre-event party two days prior to the marathon.

"The marathon is also a brand activation platform for us. We part-sponsor the lunch a day before the marathon. We do branding along the route and the association has indeed been enriching in terms of an increase in brand recall and local consumer connect, besides goodwill," says Samar Singh Shekhawat, senior vice president, marketing, United Breweries.

The Mumbai Marathon serves another unintended purpose. It inspires a whole host of entrepreneurs across India who are trying to make a business out of taking sports to the people. To them, the marathon is a demonstration of what good marketing and logistics can achieve.

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