Looking to provide one-stop shopping for endurance sports, USA Today Sports Media Group has partnered with seven marathons to create the USA Today Sports Active Alliance.

The group plans to expand the program to 15 marathons in 2016.

Founding partners include the California International Marathon; Eversource Hartford Marathon; Go! St. Louis Marathon; Indianapolis Monumental Marathon; Portland Marathon and the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

The alliance also includes the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon, an event owned by the Gannett Co., the publisher of USA Today.

USA Today Sports Media Group is serving as a national sponsorship sales agency for each marathon. The company has secured exclusive sales rights for roughly 10 categories (airline, auto rental, timing, etc.) the marathons have not been able to fill.

In return, each marathon receives a cut of sponsorship revenue and exposure in a $4.6 million ad buy in USA Today, regional Gannett papers and www.idaremeto.com, a web site dedicated to the alliance and its partners.

The web site also helps the marathons drive registrations via discount offers.   

USA Today Sports Media Group created the alliance to offer marketers national media exposure and local touch points—all in one package.

“The advantage we have is national scale,” said Jason Ford, USA Today Sports Media Group vice president of sports marketing.

USA Today is offering tailored packages for each prospect, said Ford, noting that a package could include heavy media for a company primarily interested in exposure or a large on-site footprint for a company interested in experiential marketing.

“No two brands are looking for the same thing. It’s our job to find the best mix of assets and make it as easy as possible.”

Potential assets include Gannett’s more than 90 newspapers and 110 web sites and consumer engagement opportunities in front of 125,000 race participants, a number that is expected to total more than 400,000 once all 15 races go online.

Blake Boldon, executive director of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, expects to gain national visibility, drive race registrations and access new sponsors as a result of the alliance. The 7-year-old event only has three full-time staffers.

“We’re a 501C3 with the majority of participants coming from several hundred miles. We won’t likely attract a national airline.”

Some races have already seen positive results. The Oct. 10 Eversource Hartford Marathon has seen a pickup in race registrations and increased interest from existing sponsors as a result of the media blitz, said Beth Shluger, executive director of the Hartford Marathon Foundation.

The marathons plan to share best practices and key learnings from the alliance at the 2016 Running USA Conference and potentially other conferences.

USA Today Sports Media Group examines several factors when vetting potential partners: the size of the marathon, quality of the race, reputation of the race director and the consumer experience before, during and after the race, said Ford.

The group plans to add races that take place in the first quarter and second quarter, giving companies a year-round marketing platform.

“The nature of the marathon world is that there are fewer races in June, July and August for weather reasons, so the majority of races are in Q1, early Q2 and then in late Q3 and lots in Q4,” said Bruce Revman, senior director with the USA Today Sports Active Alliance, who vets potential partners.   

More Roll Ups Planned
USA Today Sports Media Group plans to create a similar program around high school sports awards. Several Gannett newspapers have created, hosted and sold sponsorship to awards programs, a platform the company plans to scale nationally.

More than 25 newspapers have bought into the program, said Ford, noting that the platform will build on USA Today’s credibility in high school sports through its Super 25 ranking and American Family Insurance All-USA program.

“The Gannett model is to take a fragmented space, organize it and brand it. That model works well for us.”

The Most Active Sponsors Of Endurance Sports (North America)
The Most Active Sponsors Of Endurance Sports (North America)