EVENTS & PROMOTIONS: CHASING RUNNERS: BANK'S ANNUAL CORP. CHALLENGE TO LURE 150,000, HITTING 21 CITIES

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The secret to the phenomenal success of Chase Bank's Chase Corporate Challenge, now in its 21st year, comes down to one thing: ownership.

One of the few major events actually owned by its title sponsor, the series of 3.5-mile running races takes place this summer in 19 U.S. cities plus London and Frankfurt.

Competing in the races are teams of employees from current or potential corporate banking customers. The competitions kicked off in May and have so far had record participation. This year's races are expected to draw more than 150,000 runners from more than 6,000 corporations.

UPS AND DOWNS

The event has endured ups and downs over the years, including flagging participation during corporate downsizing of the late 1980s, followed by two name changes resulting from Chase's own mergers and downsizings.

Thanks to heavy publicity and marketing, Chase overcame those obstacles, expanding to new cities.

"Our ability to make changes without interference from any other sponsors or organizers is how we've managed to survive and keep growing," said Barbara Paddock, Chase senior VP-sports marketing.

The races began in May, culminating in the Corporate Challenge Championship in New York on Oct. 4 when winning teams from all the cities face off. Chase each year adds new cities where it sees business banking growth potential; new for 1997 are Philadelphia and Binghamton, N.Y.

National supporting sponsors at all races include PowerFoods' PowerBar, American Airlines, Business Week, The New York Times, Hyde Athletic Industries' Saucony and Tiffany & Co. Local sponsors separately back each race.

Also new this year: the PowerBar CEO Challenge, in which any chief executive who beats PowerFoods CEO Brian Maxell in races in New York, Chicago or San Francisco

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