The Secret Marketer: London Marathon better bet for scandal averse brands

I have just got back from my first London Marathon. I am feeling hugely upbeat and have a real spring in my step after a long day in the capital sun. Quite how the runners must be feeling I am not so sure, but as a spectator it was hard not to get carried away with the feel good factor.

The London Marathon is quite some brand. First run in 1981, 6,255 competitors crossed the finishing line. Since then more than 750,000 runners have completed the marathon and each year the race for a place at the starting line gets ever more intense.

This is a brand that dreams are made of. Heritage, authenticity, competition and charity are just a few of the core brand values set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most famous cities.

There are not many events in life where human centipedes, pantomime horses and celebrity favourites rub shoulders with the world’s elite athletes to delight a television audience in 150 countries. The London Marathon is the largest annual fundraising event in the world, providing a massive financial and awareness boost to so many great causes. It is sport and charity at its inclusive best.

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A word for the sponsors too. Ask most people who they believe sponsor the London Marathon and I suspect most would say Flora. There is a good reason for that. The brand is still the longest serving sponsor in the race’s history 14 years in total. The new kid on the block is Virgin whose sponsorship bill will top £17m for its five-year term. Virgin may be the latest but for once it is not the first. This honour went to Gillette, which paid £75,000 a year for a three-year partnership in the early Eighties.

Those sponsorship aficionados out there will not need reminding there have been three other sponsors of the event over the years. Anyone else should award themselves a medal if you can remember that Mars, ADT and NutraSweet were the other event backers.

As corporate sponsorship giants grapple with the indiscretions of Tiger and the foul-mouthed rants of Rooney, the London Marathon continues to represent a commendable contrast and most admirable association. I know where I’d like to put my sponsorship budget.

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