The London Marathon Sponsorship Report
The London Marathon provides an excellent opportunity for sponsors to mirror its values of commitment, endurance, and going beyond. Sifan Hassan and Kelvin Kiptum placed first in the women’s and men’s elite races, in what was regarded as some of the highest-quality line-ups the events have ever seen. All the while, the partners used their products and services to try and enhance the sporting experience. Below, we assess how effectively these partnerships were leveraged to benefit both parties.
As the official water sponsor of the race, Buxton was responsible for replenishing runners at heavily branded water stations. It provided 100% recyclable bottles that were collected at numerous drop zones and then taken to be recycled.
Partnering with Mind, Buxton ran a campaign called ‘Sweat and Tears’ through which it supported a team of ‘Rise Up Runners.’ Buxton gave people the opportunity to share their mental and physical running stories for a chance to win one of eight places to compete in the marathon. Out of 5,567 applicants, eight unique winners were chosen to form Buxton's 'Rise Up Runners' team.
Over a four-week period, the campaign followed gruelling training sessions as the brand showed its support by sharing inspiring stories on social media. To celebrate the final countdown to Marathon day, Buxton shared the athletes' achievements and reasons for taking part.
As well as the £13,000 raised by the ‘Rise Up’ runners from 481 supporters, Buxton also donated £100,000 to Mind, continuing its effort in mental health to help ‘build a resilient Britain.’
At the event, Buxton volunteers helped Green Square Mile’s recycling team clean the streets after the races.
Buxton cemented its commitment to promoting mental and physical wellbeing. It is easy to promote positivity at a surface-level, but making a true difference requires meaningful investment in causes. It’s no surprise that due to its proactive efforts, The Drum issued this campaign with its Social Media Award.
TAG Heuer entered its eighth year as the official timekeeping partners of The London Marathon.
The watchmakers provided a defining moment for runners who completed the course by supplying an official running time for everybody’s finish line photograph. Runners were able to share their own finish line selfie on social media, providing brand awareness while creating a memorable occasion for competitors.
TAG Heuer also partnered with urban running collective Run Dem Crew to sponsor the ‘cheer zone’ at Mile 21 – one of the liveliest points on the course - which features loud music and a vocal supporting crowd.
The winners of the elite races were presented with a TAG Heuer Connected Calibre E4 watch.
TAG ensured a worthwhile partnership by making a personal connection with participants – its branding will remain on the mantlepiece of thousands of homes forever.
TATA Consultancy Services (TCS)
At the conclusion of the 2021 marathon, TCS took over the role of Title Sponsor from Virgin Money. This is the second of its six-year deal. The company’s branding across the event was prevalent, but the partnership went far beyond optics.
London Marathon Events used ReScore – a cloud-based application developed by TCS for the Council for Responsible Sport. ReScore further measured the environmental and social impact of the marathon. The Belief Booster feature – which built on the 163,000 submissions in its debut year - enabled supporters to share encouraging messages for participants that were displayed on the finish line LED gantry and shared on social media. In emphasising the native positivity of the event, TCS leveraged its partnership functionally and with an encouraging, tangible impact.
Beyond public perception of accountability, ReScore supported TCS in its ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions across its own operations by 2024. By reporting against sustainability standards set by the council, TCS showed that it was open to external analysis of performance. To further reduce its carbon footprint, TCS finisher shirts were made from 100% recycled polyester.
The free-of-charge Mini Marathon, held on Saturday 22nd, saw more than 8,000 participants compete in its biggest edition yet. Every finishing participant aged 17 or under earned a £10 voucher from TCS for their school to spend on PE or IT equipment.
Running in the TCS @LondonMarathon and cheering their students on in the Mini Marathon, it was a pleasure to have 14 runners from Team TCS Teachers taking part in this year's big race. Hear from some of them below: https://t.co/dX3RBsPlSU#LondonMarathon #BeliefRunsLondon pic.twitter.com/Aix8x8R9RG
— TCS @ #BeliefRunsLondon (@TCS_UKI) April 23, 2023
TCS used its technological experience and customer know how to enhance the event for the benefit of organisers, participants, and spectators. Through a virtual marathon, it also connected with those who couldn’t make it to the event.
Global Healthcare Company, Abbott, are title sponsor of the World Marathon Majors. Here, it promoted its largest ever initiative to help runners complete the Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York races – otherwise known as the Six Star journey. Abbott had a stall at the end of the race, where Six Star runners could receive their medals upon finishing.
Abbott also had a stall at the London Marathon expo, where visitors could test themselves on a treadmill against the world record pace.
This partnership will have helped Abbott’s global campaign for an elite bracket of runners, but perhaps should have been more tailored to the London event.
Alongside extensive branding across the London Marathon, New Balance introduced its 2023 TCS London Marathon Race Range – a head-to-toe collection inspired by the history and culture of London.
The global sports brand also had a message wall at the London Marathon expo, where encouraging messages could be scribed onto a wall carrying its logo.
New Balance’s London Marathon collection looked fantastic, and its brand presence at the event was vast. That said, the partnership was relatively unambitious when compared with other, more dynamic sponsorship campaigns.
Having served as Title Sponsor of TLM from 1996-2009, Flora’s partnership was renewed in a much-reduced capacity in 2020.
This year, FLORA sponsored reality TV star Mark Wright and his brother Josh to help broadcast its ‘Making Healthy Switches’ campaign. As an ambassador for FLORA, Mark stated “I had to get my brother involved this year and to rope Mum and Dad into making this healthy switch, too.”
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This was a solid partnership from a long-time sponsor supplementing its own health-focused campaign. However, after its historic involvement in the event, FLORA’s diminished role was apparent.
While runners raced to the finish line, iFIT invited those at home to run the London Marathon in five parts with iFIT Trainer Casey Gilbert. The race, part of their marathon series, was also available for those training in the lead up to the marathon.
While the sponsorship made good use of iFIT’s product in one aspect, the company could have been more expansive in its efforts to connect runners virtually with the event.
Lucozade Sport became the longest-standing incumbent partner of the London Marathon when it extended the partnership in 2021.
Every Lucozade Sport bottle distributed on the course at this year’s race was made from recycled plastic, using a closed-loop system which collected and returned the bottles. The Lucozade Sport drink tables at Mile 9, 15, 21, and 24 also provided the beverage in compostable cups in support of the company’s sustainability efforts. Lucozade's branding included its new 'No Sugar' product, with posters and road banners advertising its healthier alternative.
Away from the race itself, Lucozade ran a campaign from 5th-18th September 2022 called ‘Own the Unknown’ in partnership with Strava. The campaign challenged runners to complete 20 miles of activity in the timeframe, whereafter they were entered into a prize draw for a chance to win a 2023 TCS London Marathon place. ‘Own the Unknown’ competitors were also permitted exclusive discount codes for Lucozade Sport products.
While its campaign was unfortunately limited in scope, Lucozade nonetheless found a way to create content and encourage potential competitors into the event.
Click the below links to learn more about successful and limited sponsorship campaigns in the world’s biggest sporting events: