By Barry Janoff
April 12, 2013: The Boston Marathon, under the auspices of the Boston Athletic Assn., will be run on April 15, on Patriots' Day. It was first held in 1897, one year after the first modern-day Olympic marathon competition in 1896 in Athens.
Back then, the significance of marketing and sponsorship was not even in its infancy. The Boston Marathon did not even allow race-course signage until 2008, which is limited to official marketing partners.
Now, the 117th running of the Boston Marathon comes complete with presenting sponsor John Hancock and a list of lead marketing partners that includes adidas, Gatorade, Poland Spring, Nissan, AT&T, JetBlue, PowerBar, and Samuel Adams, as well as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund.
"This race is a big deal in Boston, the whole town is taken over by the race," said Jeff Dengate, the Shoes & Gear Editor for Runner's World, which is a media partner for the Marathon. "You can look at other marathons, the IMG New York City Marathon, for example. That is a big race. But New York is a big city. People might know it's being held, but it won't impact the entire city the way the Boston Marathon impacts Boston."
The race is held annually on Patriots' Day, an official holliday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Among other race-related honors, the 26-mile marker of this year's Boston Marathon has been designed to commemorate the 26 victims of last December's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
This year, the Boston Marathon will have additional impact because April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day, celebrated throughout MLB.
The Boston Red Sox will be hosting the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park in the last of a four-game series. The Monday game begins at 11 AM and is scheduled to conclude in time to allow fans to watch the race and to take part in Boston Marathon events.
"Everybody in Boston, it seems, is either watching or participating," said Dengate. "And it doesn't hurt that they have the day off."
Adidas is celebrating its 25th year as the official footwear and apparel supplier partner of the Boston Marathon with new race footwear and apparel, including the adistar Boost and adizero Adios Boost.
But that does not prevent other companies from getting a foothold in the event. Among the other companies with racing/marathon shoe products are Nike, Under Armour, Skechers, On, Mizuna, ASICS, New Balance and Saucony (pictured below). Like adidas, the latter two are among the companies that will unveil shoes specific to the Boston Marathon.
"Adidas is the official partner for the Boston Marathon, so they will have the most obvious presence," said Dengate. "But all of the major shoe companies will be represented. There is a lot of hype and excitement around some of the new shoes. That said, it takes a lot to get someone to switch brands from something that works for them and is comfortable."
During the course of a marathon, runners have little but their own skills, wits and training acumen to get them through the 26.2 miles. Poland Spring will be providing more than 116,000 .5L bottles of water at the start and finish lines, and more than 46,000 gallons of water along the course to participants on race day. The Poland Spring Hydration Zone will be located at Mile 19.
But after the shoes, "Anything that is next to your body is the next most important thing," said Dengate. "If it's a hot day, you want a moisture-wicking fabric. If it's a colder day, you might want to have some layers on."
AT&T said it would offer numerous free features to "help keep runners and spectators connected during Marathon weekend." They include Athlete Alert: Marathon fans who want to track the progress of their friends and family, or their favorite elite runner, can get updates sent to their mobile phone or email, in real-time; the Marathon mobile app; and Commemorative Sunday finish line photos. AT&T is also taking it's "Txting & Driving: It Can Wait" campaign to the Marathon, "urging everyone in Boston for marathon weekend to take a pledge never to text and drive."
The Boston Marathon John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo in the Hynes Convention Center (Copley Square), open April 12-13-14, will have more than 180 exhibitors and is expected to attract 80,000 attendees. Represented will be companies, charities and other marathons (including the Big Sur, Louisiana, New York and Warsaw Marathons). Like adidas, many of the companies will be displaying either prototypes or new products that will soon be available to the public.
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