Bupa surrenders exclusive rights to Great Run series

Bupa is surrendering its exclusive sponsorship title rights to the Great Run Series for the first time in 22 years as the events’ organiser looks to attract potential sponsors capable of creating a “noisier brand” to woo new runners.

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Bupa is surrendering its exclusive rights to the Great Run series after 22 years.

The healthcare group’s deal with Nova – organisers of the Great Run series, which includes the “Great North Run”, “Great South Run” and “Great Edinburgh Run” – ends next year when it will look to continue its long-running ties but in a diminished role.

It does not want to stay in the “exclusive zone” any longer, according to Nova and is in discussions around sponsoring specific runs and smaller local events. The move could see the end of Bupa’s title sponsorship of the series flagship “Great North Run”, although a spokesman for Nova said no decision had yet been made.

Bupa has benefited from the event’s popularity in markets such as Europe, Africa and Asia over the years and its decision to pull back chimes with the Great Run’s plans to create a “bigger voice” through a mix of marketing and increased sponsorship activity. Organisers are in talks with several FMCG and sports brands about sponsoring challenges, online services and local runs in the hope of fuelling efforts to get more than 1 million people annually participating in its events by 2020.

Key to this aim is the creation of a brand positioning for the series that will be pushed through its first marketing campaign later this year. Nova are working with creative shop M&C Saatchi to shape the strategy, which will promote the claim that it is the “biggest mass participation programme” in the UK.

The activity marks a step change in how Great Run organisers seek out new revenue streams after seeing engagement grow organically among participants online in recent years.

Brendan Foster, Olympic Bronze medallist and Great Run Series founder, told Marketing Week Nova aims to replicate the sponsorship strategies of Manchester United and the Wimbledon tennis championship for which the rights holders have created “flexible” models capable of delivering value beyond a traditional media buy.

Foster adds: “We’re proud of the engagement we’re getting around our events but we’re looking at how to break down our rights more to reach people over the period they register and then actually race in an event.

The business is also planning to launch an online service called “Great Run Anytime” next year that lets users organise their own events with people in their local community. The service will run alongside the event’s training app as well as its wristband that tracks peoples times as they run.

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