The Competitor Group has signed United Airlines as the first global sponsor to the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, a deal that includes naming rights to its inaugural event in China this October.
Competitor Group President Josh Furlow said the global designation was specifically designed for the travel category, and developed as United and CGI realized their common interests in international expansion.
Sixty percent of Rock ’n’ Roll participants travel from outside the race market, he said. The United Airlines Rock ’n’ Roll Chengdu Marathon & Half Marathon will take place Oct. 29, and will be CGI’s seventh stop out of 29 this year outside of the U.S.
“The conversation around United progressed pretty quickly from what we were concentrating on, which was a domestic deal,” Furlow said.
Even prior to this deal, United was a heavy player in marathons. The airline recently took title rights to the Rock ’n’ Roll stops in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles. Separately, United has a long relationship with New York Road Runners, where it is a foundation-level sponsor and titles the NYC Half.
“There’s a commonality of interest among runners, that they are disproportionately fans of travel, and runners are often inclined to travel to compete in marathons,” said Rahsaan Johnson, director of sponsorship and brand activation for United. “So obviously this gives us the ability to tap into a group of people who we can connect to on a business level, but also in terms of activating their passion.”
United will promote its Polaris brand international business class at Chengdu and every other stop where it has title rights, Johnson said, and is developing “some kind of large presence” at all other Rock ’n’ Roll stops. Furlow said he envisions jointly producing content that tells the stories of how runners treat their events as tourism and depend on a reliable travel partner.
Momentum Worldwide is United’s marketing agency. Financial terms of the multiyear pact were not disclosed.
Separately, CGI also is attempting to sell a presenting sponsorship that would be fashioned “The Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series Presented By …” across all events and productions. At its premier partner level, four categories are vacant: credit card services, telecommunications, wealth management and consumer packaged goods. Current premier partners along with United include Toyota, Brooks, Humana, Synchrony Financial and Michelob Ultra.