‘It (marathon) is also serving as a launch pad for some brands

‘It (marathon) is also serving as a launch pad for some brands

With the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2008 right around the corner, Vivek B Singh, joint managing director, Procam International Ltd. tells Mint what brands can expect out of the largest sporting event in India, which will see over 30,000 participants pound the streets of Mumbai on January 20, 2008 to collectively raise over 8crores for a cause of their choice.

Q: How much money are you’ll hoping to raise through the marathon this year? Through sponsorships, as well as for charity?

A: How its works is that we underwrite the event and then, several sponsors come in and contribute either goods or services to cover those costs. So the entire event outlay to Procam International is in the region of Rs12 crore plus, that is what it costs to put the event on the road, this cost is met by various partners and sponsors. As far as charity is concerned we are hoping to meet if not top last year’s collection of Rs8 crore.

Q: What are the new features you are adding this year?

A: Now with all the authorities supporting it, we know the event will happen. Our challenge now is to make the experience of each participant better. So there are a lot of value adds that we have included this year. Participants can go to the website the very next day after the marathon and ask for a photograph or video clip of them at the finish line. So, we’ve tied up with a leading company of the world from New Zealand, called MarathonPhotos.com which will have a host of photographers positioned at different parts of the race, they have the technology and the know –how, and the very next day you can have your photo finish.

We are offering a timing chip facility, which measures the your timing and you get an official timing certificate, which can be used to register with any marathon worldwide, which has a timing cut-off. So, lots of little things like this. Our challenge now, is more experience lead rather than organization led. This year we would also like to give each and every participant who finishes the race a nutrition pack, we are assessing it as it involves logistics, food, and lots of chaos at the finish line, with 30,000 participants and a fair number of supporters, friends, family and hanger-ons.

Q: Some brands did find a way to get around limited sponsorship opportunities by entering participants dressed up as their product in the fancy dress competition?

A: That’s really not getting anywhere, it’s a fancy dress competition we can’t stop anyone from dressing up. But what does get attention is when a group of people come together for a cause like anti-terrorism. Last year we had a group of 60 people, who came in a little late and asking to be registered. And we had these two women from Bombay Natural History Society saying, please you have to register all of us "We are a forest!" So there were 60 people who were coordinating their costumes and accessories and walk together in the dream run as a forest! So it was really hilarious, we did register all of them, and what a sight it was! The cameras captured them and went to town with it. That to my mind causes much more awareness and captures attention. Even the NGO Save the Tiger, had these people dressed up like tigers and they even had one bad guy with a gun. This to my mind is what catches attention and not some guy dressed up as a branded product.

Q: What can brands hope to gain out of this association?

A: Beyond offering the branding, signage and mileage opportunities, and creating an emotional connect , the Mumbai Marathon has also come to become a site for major HR initiatives that use it as a platform for team-building, and motivation exercises. It is also serving as a launch pad for some brands. Sporting gear major Asics Corporation, has also tied in with us as the official sports good partner. The last time they were associated with an event in India was in 1982 during the Asian games. Now with their, up coming India launch in 2008, the company picked the Mumbai Marathon to create awareness about the brand

Q: After the Mumbai Marthon, the Delhi half marathon and now the announcement of one at Bangalore, are you planning to take the marathon into any other cities?

A: We want every event to be unique and peculiar to that city. The Delhi marathon for example, known as the richest half-marathon, doesn’t come in conflict with the Mumbai marathon. And the one we are planning for Bangalore will surely be a distance running event, but we will identify a unique positioning for it in the world. Also, it’s not easy to get these elite athletes and runners. It’s not like tennis where you can play again in two weeks or like golf. These guys pick and choose the marathons they are going to participate in and on an average they run about two and a half marathons each year. That’s it. So if an elite athelete comes to Mumbai, then he’s got a shot at one more marathon that year, at best two. Because that’s how long it takes, three to four months for the body to recover and make that race time again.

Q: Would you say it makes more sense for advertisers to be a part of a local sporting event rather than bet on an expensive sport like cricket?

A: I don’t think money is an issue today. Is cricket overpriced, sure, but that’s not where I’m coming from. What I see is a great amount of sponsor fatigue in cricket. When I say sponsorship, a certain amount is about branding, signage, visibility and mileage but there is also this aspect of emotional connect. The person participating in the marathon will see you as the brand that gave him or her a good time, and will lean towards your brand, service or product. With the plethora of cricket that’s happening and the high attrition rate of sponsors over the last three years, you realize that there is a certain degree of sponsor fatigue setting in. They are getting the visibility for sure, the eyeballs as well. But what is missing is the emotional connect, I believe sponsors want. This is why it is important for sponsors to look at other sports, develop and support other sports and create other paradigms of sponsorship opportunities. And it is happening, look at the Premier Hockey League, you have a product which is palatable to sponsors. In today’s time each sport needs to been nurtured, marketed and treated as a product. We are very optimistic about inter-school cricket. Football also has a lot of potential.