Why MassMutual Is Urging Race-Watchers to 'Adopt' an NYC Marathon Runner

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MassMutual is putting the emphasis on interdependence.
MassMutual is putting the emphasis on interdependence. Credit: MassMutual

Running is a solitary sport. But it doesn't have to be.

MassMutual takes its new brand positioning straight to the New York City Marathon today, glomming on to the world's most-popular 26.2-mile race.

As part of its new "Live Mutual" brand platform, the Springfield, Massachusetts-based insurer is working to pair participating runners with cheering supporters in an effort to show how, ahem, mutually connected we all are.

"Even though it's a solitary activity, you do it with thousands of other people so there's a mutuality," says Jan Jacobs, co-founder of Johannes Leonardo, the New York-based agency-of-record for MassMutual.

The insurer estimates that some 70 percent of the more-than-50,000 race runners came from outside the city and are travelling alone. Two weeks ago, MassMutual began running ads encouraging marathon observers to "Adopt a Runner" and cheer for specific individuals who have opted into the program. Those supporting runners received a race-day kit containing a loudspeaker, cough drops and a poster.

"It fits very well into the purpose of what we do as a company. We're passionate about health and wellness," says Jennifer Halloran, MassMutual's head of brand and advertising, noting that the event provides more in engagement opportunities than an actual paid sponsorship would. New York's Marathon is sponsored by brands including Tata Consulting Services, Airbnb, New Balance and United Airlines.

The campaign includes out-of-home ads around New York and targeted social media and influencer posts to recruit participants. Giant Spoon also worked on the effort.

Halloran noted that the gambit could easily be replicated in other cities for similar races around the country. For MassMutual, which spent around $50 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media, the exercise is also economically savvy.

"For the logistics, it feels like it's a lot more costly than it was but because we're focusing on influencers and digital being in the right place, it's actually not as expensive," says Halloran.

As of Friday, the campaign had logged nearly 1,000 runners eager for adoption. MassMutual also worked with running clubs, schools and choirs around the city for the effort and planned to post content from the event, including video and photographs, in its feeds on Monday.

"It's life insurance—we want to address it head on, not avoid it," says Leo Premutico, co-founder and chief creative officer of Johannes Leonardo. "This is a brand saying it's okay to need each other."

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