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London Marathon: A History Of Sports Marketing

The London Marathon course travelled past Project11 HQ at the weekend, with spectators lining the streets to support those taking part in the event.

With an unparalleled level of participation and support, the event which began in 1981 has always had a title sponsor, providing brands with first-class brand exposure whilst funding the event itself. We decided to take a look at the event’s previous sponsors and the journey which has made the London Marathon the globally recognised event it is today.

Gillette was the first title sponsor of the London Marathon, paying £75,000 for the first year, and continuing for another two years following the enormously successful first year.

In 1984, it was time for Mars to take the reins of the event, signing for two years at £150,000. This sum quickly rose to £217,000 in 1985 and £350,000 in 1986, given the growing popularity and coverage.

By this point, the London Marathon had established itself as an event to be reckoned with, as ADT battled with five other potential title sponsors to win the prestigious sponsorship in a multi-year deal beginning in 1989. The opportunity to advertise to such an enormous audience was one which was quickly growing in value.

By 1993, the London Marathon was recognised as one of the world’s leading marathons. Interest was sky high and NutraSweet began their successful title sponsorship. A combination of effective business and promotion saw record entry figures as well as a change to the course; ending in style at The Mall, with a backdrop of Buckingham Palace.

Flora were the next brand to benefit from the London Marathon’s impressive reach and reputation, continuing to push for runners to raise money for charity during their 14 years as title sponsor. In this time, hundreds of millions of pounds were raised for good causes; a feat which saw the London Marathon become the largest annual fundraising event in the world. In addition, the London Marathon joined the Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York Marathons in the World Marathon Majors from 2006 onwards.

And last, but certainly not least, the 26.2 mile event was sponsored by current sponsor, Virgin Money in 2010. Setting an initiative to lend their financial expertise, Virgin Money Giving was set up, improving online charity donations and aiming to help runners raise £250 million in five years.

Since the beginning of Virgin Money’s sponsorship of the London Marathon, the fundraising record has been broken each year, alongside breaking records for the number of participants, and countless runners also making the list of World Records.

It goes without saying that numerous brands have benefitted from the exposure which comes alongside sponsorship of such a well-known and prestigious sporting event. Virgin Money added: “It’s an honour to be linked to such an iconic event, but we didn’t want to just paint the city red. We like to sponsor events we can bring real value to somehow. So we did a lot of research around the Marathon and all that’s linked to it – including the communities of runners, fundraisers and charities that make it so special.”

It’s been a pleasure watching the event go from strength to strength and we eagerly await what the next London Marathon has in store.