Asics Seeks Return To Top Of Running World With Marathon Sponsorships

    • Japanese running brand is back as presenting sponsor of Los Angeles Marathon.
    • Marathons provide sponsors with intimate connection points to participants.

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As runners take off from the starting line at the Los Angeles Marathon, Asics is making a strong push to get back to the top of the running world. 

Positioning Asics as the presenting sponsor of the Los Angeles Marathon is an effort to return the brand’s focus to performance running, said Richard Sullivan, executive vice president of Asics North America. 

“This is our heritage, it is who we are, and it is what will take us to the next level,” Sullivan said. “Everything we are doing, including returning to the Los Angeles Marathon, is about regaining our position at the top of running.”

The involvement in the race is part of Asics’s broader 2020 growth plan that it established in 2016 according to an internal strategic memo, which saw the company put a “priority allocation of resources” to grow its market of U.S. running shoes, expand the Chinese market and increase digital commerce. Among the core strategy points were “expand our consumer base” and “communicate a consistent brand,” the memo stated.

Asics’ presenting status with the Los Angeles Marathon comes from a larger, five-year deal with Conqur Endurance Group and LA Road Runners. Through that partnership, Asics is also a sponsor of the Pasadena Half Marathon, The LA Big 5K, and Santa Monica Classic 5K and 10K. 

The Los Angeles Marathon provides Asics a solid base, as the event has grown dramatically the past several years, according to Steven Powell, Chief Commercial Officer of Conqur Endurance Group and the McCourt Foundation.

“The growth we have enjoyed with both runners registrations and partnerships has been phenomenal over the last two-to-three years,” Powell said. “We have grown our category sponsorships by 100% in recent years and the key to our success has been our focus on developing a ‘less is more’ model for partnerships. This allows us to provide our official partners with assets that represent the highest visibility and value and avoids the common dilution effect that is rampant in lifestyle and professional sports.”

Powell said that while the majority of runners are amateur, there is a diverse mix of demographics for brands to reach, including an almost 50-50 mix of men and women and 37% Hispanics.

In addition to sponsoring Los Angeles, Asics is also a partner of the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run and 5K walk in Washington, D.C., a presenting partner of Cincinnati’s The Flying Pig Marathon, as well as supporting multiple marathons in Asia, including The Tokyo Marathon. The company has also signed American distance runners Emma Bates, Lindsay Flanagan, and Clayton Young to bolster a roster already featuring American marathon record-holder Deena Kastor.

While the core partnerships can be an effective way to reach fans, marathons and other footraces offer a deeper point of connection with potential customers, said Ken Cohn, chief marketing officer of cbdMD, a CBD company that was the presenting sponsor of the Miami Marathon in February. 

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As part of a partnership with Lifetime Fitness, cbdMD is also a sponsor of more than 20 other races, including the Chicago Triathlon.

“We have a massive presence onsite because education is critical with hundreds of CBD brands out there,” Cohn said. “Being able to touch hundreds of athletes at a single event, pre- and post-event, it’s an opportunity to drive brand awareness and loyalty.”

With products that directly impact a runner’s results, Asics deploys an extensive on-the-ground presence as well.

A keystone to Asics’ Los Angeles Marathon deal is a 20,000-square-foot interactive experience at the race’s expo. Within the setup are two 3D foot scanning machines and a customized t-shirt center.

Because the marathon is running on International Women’s Day, Asics is launching “The New Strong Team” made up of media, influencers, and employees and will host a panel on March 7 at the expo.

Asics also commissioned an 8-foot by 16-foot mural at the expo to highlight the “Stadium to Sea” marathon course that runs from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier.

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Asics is pulling out all the stops to create an on-the-ground presence and make sure brand awareness is high at one of the largest marathons in the U.S. 

“More than anything, this is an opportunity to connect with our core consumer,” Sullivan said. “In some cases, we are reaffirming our commitment to top tier products and experience, and in other cases, we are introducing the brand to a new set of consumers.”