By Barry Janoff
January 12, 2016: Endurance sports and events such as marathon running, mountain climbing, obstacle racing, cross-country bike competitions and triathlons are growing in popularity, and that trend is being reflected in marketing and sponsorship spend associated with the category.
Driven by such brands as Gatorade, Nestlé and Anheuser-Busch, marketing spend on marathons, 5Ks and other endurance sports events hit a record $118.8 million in 2015, up 4.6% from 2014, according to a new study from marketing, research and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
IEG said that the year-over-year increase exceeds the 4.5% increase in overall sports spending and 4.1% increase in overall sponsorship spending.
Sponsorship spend has risen every year since 2011, according to IEG, from $95.7 million in 2011, $102.1 million in 2012, $108.4 million in 2013 and $113.6 million in 2014.
According to IEG, PepsiCo's Gatorade was the most active sponsor in terms of number of deals for the second consecutive year. Some 59% of properties with a sponsor in the isotonic beverage category reported a partnership with the beverage.
Among other PepsiCo brands, Mtn. Dew is heavily involved with snowboarding, skateboarding, motor sports and as title sponsor for the Mtn. Dew Tour.
The Top Ten active sponsors also includes Anheuser-Busch's Michelob Ultra (42%), Marathon Foto (29%), Fond Memories Graphics (29%), Transamerica (26%), PowerBar (25%), UPS (22%), Brooks (21%), Built With Chocolate Milk (20%) and Garmin (20%).
Fueled by Gatorade’s presence at marathons, 5Ks and other running events, PepsiCo is by far the most active company sponsoring endurance sports, according to IEG research.
Seventy percent of endurance sports properties report a partnership with Gatorade or another PepsiCo brands, according to the research.
The Top Ten also includes Nestlé (51%), Anheuser-Busch (46%), Clif Bar (36%), Berkshire Hathaway (35%), MarathonFoto (29%), Fond Memories Graphics (29%), Aegon (26%), UPS (22%) and America's Dairy Farmers & Milk Processors (21%).
Among categories aligned with endurance sports, sports apparel and equipment companies are 7.9 times more likely to sponsor endurance sports than the average of all sponsors, according to the IEG study.
The Top Ten active endurance sponsor categories also includes sports nutrition (6.1%), medical services (4.4%), sports beverages (4.1%), beer (3.6%), hotel (3.6%), photo supplies/services (3%), consumer electronics (2.8%) and bottled water (2.7%).
Even with its new record, the endurance sports category trails other sports in terms of sponsorship spending.
The NFL had sponsorship revenue in 2014 of $1.15 billion. Sponsorship spending on the NBA and its 30 teams hit $739 million last season, according to IEG.
MLB sponsorship revenue in 2014 was $695 million and the NHL reached $447 million, according to IEG.
Worldwide sponsorship revenue on motorsports topped $5.3 billion, golf hit $1.65 billion in 2014 and tennis was at $739 million, per IEG.
Still, those in the endurance sports category are driven to do more because participation and marketing spend continues to climb.
"We’ve seen consumers around the world evolve their priorities in the outdoors and seek out greater challenges and pursuits."
"We’ve seen consumers around the world evolve their priorities in the outdoors and seek out greater challenges and pursuits," Todd Spaletto, president of sports apparel and equipment retailer The North Face, told NYSportsJournalism in a recent interview to coincide with the brand's first global marketing campaign, "Never Stop." "It became clear that we had a relevant global message to share that could impact the way people explore."
The North Face's effort focuses on a variety of burgeoning endurance sports, such as skiing, snow gliding, bridge jumping, undersea exploration, snowboarding, star-gazing and even tasting unusual foods.
"People want to do something challenging and feel strong doing it," said Spaletto. "People want to explore."
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