The 5am Wake Up Call For Brands

  • Unlike Spectatorial sports, 'Distance running events’ open up a larger engaging and immersive experience for brands
  • and therein lies the basic difference and therefore the opportunity
Joseph Eapen
Modified 10 May 2020, 10:47 IST


Before one can understand the opportunity for brands in distance running events, it’s important to understand how different these events are from any other sports event. Spectatorial sports are about display advertising opportunities that help brands reach a wider audience through live telecasts; opportunities in ‘distance running events’ open up a larger engaging and immersive experience for brands, and therein lies the basic difference and therefore the opportunity.

Time and again these platforms are proving to be the best experiential launch pads for brands and a sustainable model to have a long-term engagement to woo the right audience over a longer period of time.


The interesting aspect of running is the phase it goes through and grows until race day. From the time of registrations to race day, it is easily 6-8 months. This pre-event phase give brands the unique opportunity to speak to every runner – if one is training for a challenging distance at the Tata Mumbai Marathon or Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, it requires 8-10 months of dedicated training and in this phase the runner has only one goal and is loyal to that event (brand).

Unlike a spectatorial sport, where the audiences go to a stadium to watch a favourite team play or is watching a match on TV or a handheld device; here the runner is the star player. He is 5am working athlete with a full time-job. Hence the involvement is personal, active and direct rather than a passive one.


Another interesting perspective for brands to study and view is - Runner as a Consumer.

It is a myth that running is a cheap sport. In its literal sense it could be true, however, there is another constantly changing dimension to this notion. 

Today, running is over $400 mn industry in India and growing at 25-30% annually. This constituents’ apparels, shoes, socks, energy enhancing drinks, timing gear and products, recovery and physiotherapy, eyewear, running accessories, travel, hospitality, registration fee, nutrition, hydration and so on and so forth. 

Runner investment constituents
Runner investment constituents

The investment attitude of a runner is very positive and involvement level is longer, sustained and committed. It’s a close-knit group and highly influenced by peers.

Run Club and their Leaders play a major role in a runner’s life. Apt clothes, shoes and accessories that can enhance their performance are hot topics of discussion and lead to opinions, hence the virality for a brand and its usage is at its peak. On an average a runner will spend Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 70,000 to suit up for a marathon and annual consumption pattern ranges from Rs. 30000 to Rs. 2 lakhs between all the above-mentioned products and services. 


Understanding this psychic of the runner, partner brands of Procam races like Tata, Tata Consultancy Services, Airtel, Asics, Tata Motors, Franklin Templeton, GoDaddy among others are constantly innovating with their interesting ideas of engagement for the running community throughout the period of a runner’s training phase leading up to the race.

The highest intensity engagement is the expo week before the event leading up to race day. Brands perceive this as a 1-day mega event, 5-days of active engagement and 160 days of content for amplification. An opportunity for brands to stay relevant throughout the life -cycle of a runner and occupy consumer mind space. 

Airtel #NetwrokOfCare live engagement with runners on the ADHM route
Airtel #NetwrokOfCare live engagement with runners on the ADHM route

Airtel invested in a superior tech innovation on the route of Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to spring a surprise on the runners and encourage their enthusiasm in a unique way. Targeting the timed runners of half marathon (21k) and 10k categories, Airtel created personalized video messages that would flash on giant screens along the route. The set up scanned the RFID on the runners' bibs the moment they crossed the timing mat near to the screen and played the videos in real time. Runners were overwhelmed to see their parents, siblings, run club buddies cheering them from the digital hoardings strategically placed at key points, motivating them to rev up and break their previous personal records and finish strong. This helped the brand to connect not only with the runners but also their circle - family, friends, colleagues who are necessarily not runners. Airtel also created a microsite called #NetworkOfCare and people uploaded the videos through this and expo as well. Airtel has moved out from all the other sponsorships including cricket except ADHM.

Asics specially crafted Tata Mumbai Marathon shoe
Asics specially crafted Tata Mumbai Marathon shoe

Asics launched the first edition of specially crafted Tata Mumbai Marathon shoe. Dedicated to the spirit of Mumbai, the name of the city is emblazoned on the shoes along with the city co-ordinates. They also launched their exclusive line of TMM merchandise with city sketches on the t-shirt which was the best seller of the whole season. 


Bisleri interestingly did a campaign focusing on their recycling efforts called “Bottles of Change”, runners could decide between 3 bins to throw the used bottle to convert the plastic bottle into a pair of jeans, t-shirt or a bag. They strategically placed these bins all along the race route and pre- and post-race holding areas. A very active digital campaign was on air to promote this social initiative and to bring in an awareness among the runners to recycle.

Automobile manufacturer Tata Motors launched their new sedan Altroz much before the official launch at one of the Procam events, Tata Steel Kolkata 25k held every December. Around 75000 runners could experience the car before the actual world did. The social media impact it created was immense and created new content for their digital platforms using international event ambassadors of the event in the respective cities for promoting the event. The sporting icons such as Olympic gold medalist Carmelita Jeter, Argentine football sensation Hernan Crespo, the Olympic gold medalist legendary gymnast Shannon Miller, tennis starAratxa Sanchez experienced the sights and sounds of the city through the lens of a TATA Motors Car. 

In addition to this, Altroz led the elite runners and the half marathoners at the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2020. Unknown to the amateur runners was an innovation on route that would help them unlock their #RunForGold performance. At three strategic points on the full-marathon & half-marathon route, were placed 3 large LED screens, which when a runner stepped in proximity of, would see his name and his timing (basis their individual pacing record and estimated finish time) appear on the screen in front of him. This level of personalization and direct communication during the race pleasantly surprised & motivated them to push for their personal best record.

After completing the run the runners also had an opportunity to not only strike a pose with the laser-sharp Altroz, but also get an instant snapshot of their performance at a photo booth. For runners who wanted to get a deeper understanding of their performance on race-day, Procam & Tata Motors provided runners a dedicated microsite where runners could enter their bib number after the race and view detailed statistics of their run.

Bira 91 focused on being the post-event celebrations
Bira 91 focused on being the post-event celebrations
Bira 91
Bira 91 'Official Companion' focused on being the post-event celebrations

As the official companion, Bira 91 focused on being the post-event celebrations high for the runners across Mumbai. On race day volunteers wearing the Bira headgear provided a map of the bars where the runners could have a Cool-down Party. “The Cooldown Party” was spread across popular Mumbai hangouts in catchment areas like Colaba, BKC, Lower Parel, Churchgate, Fort among others. The parties across locations had a great turnout with runners, pacers, and influencers bringing their families and friends to celebrate the spirit of the Tata Mumbai Marathon. Bira ensured Mumbai partied harder with the Tata Mumbai Marathon. 

Franklin Templeton used a digital first approach to engage with the runner community, with an innovative offering called MyJourney video for all timed runners. The video is a snapshot of the race performance with required analysis and ranking along with the runners’ finishing photo graphs.

Airtel through its ADHM #NetworkOfCare campaign reached more than 50 million people through Facebook, Youtube. This is over and above the runners on the race day. The campaign created the highest positive social media traction for Brand Airtel. Brands like Asics believe in 1:3 formula for promoting running in India; 1 is the cost of sponsorship and 3 is for elevating the sponsorship. Tata Mumbai Marathon is the largest community on Facebook and the dept of engagement on Facebook is higher than a spectatorial sport. Last year TMM had 120% engagement rate while IPL had 30%. 

Running is undoubtedly the fastest growing sport in India. On an average 685 runners join a run club every day. And this is estimated to reach a mark of 20 million amateur runners by 2025.

Clearly, runners are pro-investment, socially active and highly influential consumers. If you have a right product or service with a sustained brand offering, runners are your most loyal customers. It’s about time, brands awaken to this 5am working athlete and invest their faith and money in this mass participative movement – Running.

Author – Vipin Nambiar

Asst VP at Procam International,

Vipin leads Business Development, Alliances and Innovation for Procam

Handheld :- +91-9320070024

Email :-,


Vipin Nambiar
Vipin Nambiar

Published 10 May 2020, 09:06 IST
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