Rightsholders looking to breathe new life into their properties should take a look at the Honda LA Marathon presented by K-Swiss.

Demonstrating that a 25-year-old event can resuscitate a lackluster corporate partnership program, the March 21 marathon has added more than five new partners, including its first-ever title sponsor. All told, sponsorship revenue has more than tripled since last year’s event.

In addition to American Honda Motor Co. and K-Swiss, Inc., the marathon has secured deals with cosponsors including Don Francisco’s Gourmet Coffee and Diamond Foods, Inc.’s Emerald Nuts. The property also is set to announce an agreement with a soft drink company.

While much of that success stems from a new ownership group headed by MLB Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and a new “stadium to the sea” course that starts at Dodger Stadium and ends at the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica—a new sponsorship sales strategy also has played a significant role in lifting revenue.

The sponsorship effort is helmed by Dave Klewan, partnerships director, who joined the marathon last August when the event only had one partner secured for the ‘10 race. Klewan previously was vice president of partnerships and events for the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour.

Below, five important steps the LA Marathon has taken to attract new and larger sponsor commitments:

Create better opportunities for experiential marketing. Looking for new ways for sponsors to connect with consumers, the marathon is moving its exposition from the Orange County Convention Center to outside Dodger Stadium.

“That allowed us to create a unique setting and allow brands to create unique experiences,” Klewan said. “It gives them the opportunity to break out from the traditional 10-by-10 footprint in an expo hall and really customize their activation programs.”

Moving the expo outside of a convention hall also provides more space for mobile marketing programs, Klewan said.

Provide additional reach. The marathon also offers sponsors inclusion in four new neighborhood celebrations being held along the marathon route. Locations include Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

“Instead of just reaching runners in the expo, sponsors can now reach the entire community,” Klewan said.

In addition to offering high level marathon sponsors a presence at all four events, other marketers can align with individual celebrations to reach specific communities and/or demographic targets.

For example, expo exhibitor Skechers USA, Inc. also will have a presence at the West Hollywood block party to promote its affiliation with the Southern California lifestyle, Klewan said.

Carve out new inventory. The marathon is selling sponsorship to each mile of the race, with 17 of the 26 miles currently sponsored.

The inventory gives sponsors a more compelling association with the race than start and finish line signage and other standard benefits, Klewan said.

Emerald Nuts will sponsor the final five miles of the race.

Highlight community relations angle. The marathon focused its sales efforts on local companies looking to demonstrate their community involvement.

For example, Torrance, Calif.-based Honda is using its title sponsorship to build visibility throughout Southern California and to support the race’s charitable fundraising efforts. The automaker, which signed a three-year deal, has presented the marathon the past 15 years.

Offer tailored sponsorship packages. While it may sound basic, replacing cookie-cutter sponsorship packages with tailored, integrated solutions has helped the marathon gain the attention of prospective partners and ultimately close new deals.

“The key is showing potential partners that you are able to work with them on packages that help them accomplish their objectives,” Klewan said. “It’s all about providing a marketing solution, as opposed to looking for dollars.”

New Media Partners To Help Generate Buzz, Sell Packages
The marathon has signed an in-kind promotional partnership with Clear Channel Radio LA, which will tout the event through promotions on eight stations. In addition to on-air mentions, the stations also will tout the event on their Web sites.

Station personalities are engaging listeners by encouraging them to participate in training programs and social gatherings. The on-air talent also are promoting musical acts that will perform at the race’s block parties.

The marathon last week concluded a new partnership with KTLA-TV, which will broadcast the race live.

The partnerships stand in stark contrast to the race’s previous media efforts, which largely consisted of buying ad packages on a handful of radio stations, Klewan said. “It was more of a piecemeal effort in the past.”

The marathon is working with the media partners on selling advertising packages, some of which may include sponsorship inventory, he added. Sales reps from both organizations will jointly sell the packages.

“We don’t want two companies selling the same assets. It has to be a concerted effort,” Klewan noted.