Sports Business – Despite Economy, Sponsor Sticks With Marathon – NYTimes.com
Mary Wittenberg, the president of the New York Road Runners, recalled Friday that it was not easy to accept a title sponsor for the New York City Marathon in 2003.
On its own, the marathon’s name had become a renowned brand. Now it was joining the realm of stadiums, arenas and college bowl games with corporate names.
But the club needed the money during a soft economy. “It was a monumental shift that we weren’t looking to make at the time,” Wittenberg said at Tavern on the Green, two days before Sunday’s race. “We were looking at the time to replace JPMorgan Chase at the very high level of principal sponsor, not to add a title sponsor.”
ING, the Dutch financial-services giant, agreed to spend an estimated $2 million a year, which has probably increased since, to place its letters in front of the marathon’s name. “ING came to us,” she said, “which put us in a good position to say, Here are the grounds we’ll consider a title sponsor. We wanted a real partner and someone who cares a lot about getting kids running, and about the community.”
The recent financial crisis weakened ING enough that the Dutch government announced Sunday that it would provide $13.4 billion to stabilize ING’s operations, if not prevent a possible collapse.
Wittenberg said she was not surprised when she heard of the financial rescue.
“We’d been in close contact with ING,” she said. “We had a very good sense throughout the crisis that ING was on solid footing, as we understood it. ING is quite significant in the Netherlands, so we thought the bailout would likely be coming.”
ING is not cutting its commitment to the marathon, which goes through 2010.