Without a marathon, New York Road Runners is still racing ahead
There might not be a New York City Marathon this year, but race organizer New York Road Runners is still running. After calling off its biggest event, the 26.2-mile November marathon, in late spring because of the pandemic, the nonprofit has been hosting a series of virtual races, which are sponsored by Volvo and digital tracker Strava. This is the third year the virtual races have been an option, but interest is on an upswing, according to Bruno Garcia, VP of marketing at NYRR, speaking on the latest episode of the “Marketer’s Brief” podcast.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in participation,” says Garcia, who joined NYRR in February after working at Nike. “People are using running in this pandemic to stay focused or stay positive or even challenge themselves to do something productive during this challenging time.”
NYRR has been using running’s popularity to shift its marketing and communication to encompass a more global audience, in addition to the localized marketing it normally runs in New York.
“It’s a bit of a shift in the consumers that we talk to and engage with,” says Garcia. “We’re trying to open up our scope to speak to the runner both nationally and globally and encourage them to participate in our races.”
The organization just began hosting small-scale, in-person races again in New York City with a four-mile test race in Central Park last weekend for 200 people.
“That pilot will then lead to a series of races coming up now through end of the year, allowing us to safely grow the number of runners that we can serve,” says Garcia.
The TCS New York City Marathon typically has a large number of sponsors behind it—names that include New Balance and United Airlines, as well as title sponsor Tata Consulting Services. Garcia talks about the changes in such sponsors now that the race is not happening. For example, one sponsor of a smaller in-person race, Poland Springs, has moved its support to the virtual arena.
“A lot of our partners have been engaged in our virtual events,” he says.