Sponsorship 2008 / 1st Place / Nordea Riga Marathon - from local race to international recognition

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Sponsorship 2008 / 1st Place / Nordea Riga Marathon - from local race to international recognition

  1. 1. Categorie:Sponsoring campaignsTitle of campaign:Nordea Riga Marathon - from local race to inernational recognitionshort common description of the campaign::Riga Marathon is the oldest marathon race in Baltic countries, established in 1991.The race enjoyed popularity in the first years, with runners from all Sovietrepublics coming to enjoy Rigas marathon. Due to economic and political changeshappening in Latvia in the 90-ties, the marathon and running lost its appeal. By1999 the number of participants in Riga marathon had dropped to 61 (!) runners.The window of opportunity for the development of Riga marathon re-appearedagain in 2004, when a new talented Latvian runner J. Prokopcuka appeared on theinternational running stage winning one marathon after another (now a 2-time NewYork marathon winner). Also, the economic situation seemed right to re-establishthe reputation and fame of Riga Marathon. Nords Event Communications (NEC)decided to develop the race and entered into a long-term sponsorship agreementwith Nordea Bank for title sponsorship as well as Riga City Council for thedevelopment of Riga Marathon.
  2. 2. research work done during the campaign:Focus groups and quantitative research done at the end of 2005 clearly showed thatthe main reputation problem of running was its perception as only a professionalsports discipline. The respondents did not think that running had any interestingfeatures, it was considered "physically hard", "boring", "outdated" and for"outsiders", "running freaks" or "former sportsmen". Additionally, previous Rigamarathon organizers had earned quite anti - client service oriented reputation, andthe race itself was not even considered as a recreational sports activity. Researchalso indicated that running had no "role -models" or popular persons engaged inrunning, compared to other recreational sports like cycling, mountain-biking,football and basketball, all of which had strong ambassadors to make thempopular. Internationally Riga marathon had no reputation at all, since the numberof foreign participants had been negligible.strategy:Campaigns goals were to increase the number of participants to 5000 in 3 yearsand sponsorship marketing return for the title sponsor Nordea Bank and other leadsponsors. Target audiences for the campaign were most active people,international marathon tourists, corporate teams and general public - fans.
  3. 3. With the help of PR agency Nords Porter Novelli, a thourough integratedmarketing plan was developed, involving intensive focus on PR events and mediarelations, sponsorship and branding activation, advertising as well as internationalmarathon marketing in 6 key running markets.Communication highlights:1)J.Prokopcuk was agreed to become long-term Patroness of Nordea RigaMarathon becoming the first running "role-model" in Latvia. Her inspirationalcommentaries, running insights were consistently marketed throughout thecampaign and appeared in specialized blogs, internet, printed media. The mainmessage was: "Running is for everyone. I started just like one of you"2)"Running experiments" with celebrities - national leading media "Diena" wasagreed to participate in a running experiment, publishing running and training talesof several well-known celebrity superstars. Many runners were surprised andinspired by their stories and started their running "careers" just to able to run andbeat these personalities.3)"Challenge your friend" campaign at the most popular internet-based socialnetwork www.draugiem.lv (in Latvian "for friends", similar to LinkedIn) proved avery powerful PR and word-of-mouth tool. Friends were encouraged to"challenge" eachother, by clicking on eachothers profile to invite to participate inthe marathon. The biggest "challengers" were awarded air tickets from the officialmarathon airline "airBaltic".4)"Marathon Diaries" was implemented as a social project to develop Latvianrunning culture together wih 5min, the leading Latvian morning daily distributedfor free. This included "runners stories", tips from celebrities, tips from othermarathons, volunteer contests, etc.5)Corporate teams were invited by the patroness to take part in marathon thus
  4. 4. improving employee loyalty and letting them build better employers reputation.The highlight was inclusion of LNT TV channel news crew and celebrity showleaders to participate in the race.6)Special communications campaign "10000 Euros from Nordea for breaking Rigamarathon record" was marketed not only in Latvia but among the running societyin Europe, Africa and the US. A Kenyan athlete J.Changwony broke the record.The record braking race received huge media attention and publicity as well asgood word-of-mouth, since Riga had not experienced Kenyan runners taking partin the race. Phinishers photo with huge Nordea line was published in all leadingnational media as well as TV, blogs, internet.7)Complex branding and promo activities - TV, radio and internet promotion,on-site promotion, outdoor promotion in visible city centre places.Results of the campaign and evaluation::During the 2 year period the campaign managed to increase the number ofparticipants almost 7 times to 5000 runners. In only 2 years time, the marathonexperienced a massive transition from a small, local and poorly attended race to aregional leader in mass sports events. Currently Nordea Riga marathon is thelargest public sports event in Latvia as well as the largest marathon in the Balticcountries. Moreover, the massive running campaign has helped to re-create thefoundations of running culture in Latvia, with many other races now being opened
  5. 5. in Latvias regions.The media and publics quickly got used to the new prefix "Nordea" associating thebank with the new qualities the race had gained. The number of Nordeaimpressions in media and public accounted to marketing value of the race almost 2times larger than the investment of the lead sponsor Nordea, therefore proving tobe a great sponsorship investment. During the 2nd year of campaign, manyestablished brands seeked out potential cooperation possibilities with the marathononce again proving the uniqueness.Finally, for the last race, the registration had to be closed earlier due tounexpectedly large number of participants (the goal of 5000 runners was achievedin only 2 years). Internet blogs were full with runners trying to buy race numbersin "black market" - indicating the popularity and status of the race.

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