Ever since India’s largest telecom service provider, Bharti Airtel, entered into an unusual brand-building exercise in 2009 by sponsoring the Delhi Half-Marathon, several well-established Indian brands have started partnering such events to touch the right chord with consumers. One such exercise aimed at social causes is the Mumbai Marathon. The event is increasingly becoming a reliable haven for marketers to endorse their brands. Growing recognition of the event globally has attracted almost every top corporate to either participate or partner the event. The most eye-catching factor for these brands has been the community-neutral nature of the event, which touches almost every strata and age group of society.
Although the opportunity is largely a platform for CSR activities for corporates, the number of brands that have associated with the event has consistently grown. While the event started with individuals and communities raising funds to support self-help groups and NGOs, today a large share of the funds come from leading brands. Brands have increasingly become key drivers of several such on-ground sporting events. Human chains, Out of Home and celebrity endorsements have become key sources of revenue.
The Mumbai Marathon collected Rs 15.5 crore in 2011 from individuals as well as corporate funding. Since its inception, it has raised close to Rs 42.84 crore towards charity, making it the largest charity generating platform in India, be it in sports or entertainment. After the success of Mumbai Marathon, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon has helped raise Rs 7.21 crore in five years. Across the first three editions of the Sunfeast World 10K Bangalore, an amount of Rs 3.10 crore has been raised for various causes, attracting more and more brands for partnership opportunities. The organisers are anticipating at least a 20 per cent year-on-year growth.
“The Mumbai Marathon is an event meant purely for the purpose of charity. Donations from corporates are utilized for the welfare of NGOs and community groups. Therefore, we don’t look at it as a commercial event, but corporates have increasingly found it a platform to connect with their consumers,” elaborates Vivek Singh, Joint MD of Procam, organiser of the Mumbai Marathon. While the event kick-started with high enthusiasm among participants and corporates in 2004, it witnessed a decline in 2005 and infrastructural hurdles in 2009 after the 26/11 massacre, but gathered unprecedented support that year and reaffirmed its position to corporates. The number of brands participating in the event also grew significantly in 2009. Corporate funding, creative designs and advertisements have only raised their bar in every subsequent year.
“Besides being the single largest fund raising event for charity in India, in its 9th year, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon has been given National Status by the Athletics Federation of India,” says Sumeet Singla, Regional Head, Corporate Affairs, India & South Asia, Standard Chartered. The growing number of brands’ association with the event every year is also an interesting observation. The 26/11 attack, which many believed would negatively affect the participation from corporates, in fact made the event more popular. One of the biggest contributions also came in that year when Rs 18 lakh was raised by HDFC alone. Today, around 150 brands have actively become partners in the event. Some media planners believe that this is also the result of a deliberate attempt through both ATL and BTL marketing activities. “Large corporates are actively participating in such activities. To some extent, CSR activities are also a part of the public relations campaign of many brands. Since consumers are largely aware of the CSR activities they undertake, it has a big opportunity in a country like India,” explains Debraj Tripathy, COO, MediaCom.
Some reputed brands like Tata, HDFC, Standard Chartered, Cadbury, HSBC and Godrej have associated directly with the event through partnerships. While most of the funds generated through partnerships aim to reach the needy and marginalised sections of society, the Mumbai Marathon has become a potential event for CSR-driven marketing or Cause Marketing. “CSR-related marketing is yet to witness a lot of growth in the Indian scenario, as only a few corporates have initiated marketing activities around CSR,” adds Tripathy.