INTO its seventh edition, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is growing year-on-year with sponsors fully backing the property and the number of participants increasing consistently.
Procam International has been the promoter of SCMM alongwith two other distance running properties - Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and Sunfeast Bangalore 10k Run. Pertinently, all three properties were recently honored with the IAAF Gold Label.
Procam International Jt MD Vivek Singh talks to SportzPower's Javed Farooqui about the SCMM to be held on 17 January and how it has redefined lifestyle of people participating in the run and the benefits that an event like marathon offers to participants, sponsors and city alike. Vivek Singh is also on the board of directors of Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) to oversee the marketing and sponsorship of the body.
Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon has entered its seventh edition, are you satisfied with the way this property has grown till now?
Satisfied is an under-statement, we are delighted. I think, the journey has been magical. For a marathon seven years is a very short period of time and in seven years what Mumbai has been able to achieve and what Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon has been able to achieve is phenomenal. In fact, today it will be fair to say that from Beirut to Shanghai and from Moscow to Singapore in the developing world the SCMM is the aspirational torchbearer today.
When you say SCMM is an aspirational torchbearer in the developing world, what do you mean by that?
There are various parameters on which you are judged - such as the elite athletes one is able to attract, what kind of prize money are you able to offer, what kind of TV and media exposure are you able give to your event, what kind of emotional connect you establish with your city, how many people run across all demographic profiles. For a marathon which is a city event there are various paradigms. Is it only a certain set of people who are running/ Is it across the socio-economic bandwidth? Are you using the event as charity platform? How many charities are benefitting? This is not about the best of the best fighting it out with the best of the best, this is about the city running. Are people getting fitter and healthier?
All your three properties including SCMM were recently accorded with IAAF Gold Label. Your comments on that?
Well, IAAF Gold Label is just the icing on the cake. It is just a recognition of the several departments in which the event has excelled in. There are four pillars on which this is judged. International pride and prestige of city, communal harmony, health and fitness and as a platform to raise money for a cause. So when all the four pillars are strong then the marathon grows.
How are the preparations for the event going on? Do you have all the necessary permissions and logistics in place?
Well, the preparations are underway. We will be fully prepared on 17 January. The government of Maharashtra, MCGM and administration is with us and everybody is fully supporting us. So in my issue this is not a big issue.
The big news this year is that the run will go through the Bandra Worli Sea Link. Is it true that the MSRDC has waived the utility fee for the SCMM as a special case?
Yes, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, which is the nodal agency, has waived the utility fee because there was no question of it, they have done a due research and they waived the fee. 1. It does truly showcase Mumbai on an international platform like nothing else can 2. It helps the traffic police to open up the roads earlier, because now we bring them back from bridge to Worli and then out, so that whole section of the roads can be opened earlier 3. The way the marathon route is created traditionally the Bandra end and Worli end was sealed-off, so there is no question of revenue loss, whether they give us the bridge or not.
Some months back, the BMC had also asked you to pay more arguing that it is a commercial event? Has the issue been sorted out?
It is yet being resolved. We pay for all the permissions, all the signages that we put-up, we pay for that and we also pay for the barricades that they put up. What they have billed us for are the charges that we cannot have, for instance maintenance of the road, painting of the roads, painting of the dividers, these are done because Mumbai is being showcased, it is done for the general benefit of the city. These cannot be the charges that they (BMC) recover from a Mumbai Marathon. That is what our submission to the BMC has been. But to keep city roads clean and beautiful at their own will and then to charge us retrospectively is not something Mumbai Marathon can bear in our opinion.
What are the marketing and promotional activities that are being held? What are the overall spends?
We will embark on a full 360 degree marketing campaign. All our media partners like CNBC TV-18, Radio Mirchi, Times of India and indiatimes.com are involved in promotions and marketing. Now there are two phases, one was the registration phase which we did in July to get the message out that the registrations are open and now it’s the countdown phase.
In fact, Standard Chartered is launching a beautiful campaign themed ‘I will win this marathon’.
On the oeverall spends, there is no figure like that, because Procam is just one as[pect. Then Standard Chartered does it own spend, then TCS does its own spend and it’s not that one body control spends. So everybody contributes to what you see as a Mumbai Marathon.
But the spends if added together are definitely a few crores (tens of millions) of rupees .
It’s a logistical challenge to organise an activity of this scale and size. How do you manage this? What will be the overall cost of organising this event?
There are several people involved, we have about 400 volunteers helping. Then there is entire the Procam team to work with the volunteers. There are officials from Maharashtra Athletics Association (MAA) to look after the technical conduct of the race. Then there is police and BMC. So everybody comes together to lead the logistical challenge. We will spend around Rs 150 million to organise this event.
Last year, you raised Rs 77.5 million in charity, much below your expectation of Rs 100 million and also less than the 2008 edition. What do you think were the reasons for that? How much do you expect this time?
I think there was little difference in charity generated between 2008 and 2009. The slowdown could possibly have had an impact on the charity collection since the mop-up happens in August, September, October and November. But for this edition certainly we are expecting more compared to the last edition.
What kind of opportunity do events like Marathon provide to brands and do you believe marathon delivers ROI for brands?
It delivers more, which is why you will realise that none of the sponsors have left Mumbai Marathon, most of the sponsors have been with us for over five years. The reason is that the Mumbai Marathon delivers visibility, exposure, mileage and PR. But it delivers something more - that is the emotional connect.
The emotional connect that this event has is something which can be used by sponsors to reach their target audience, which is phenomenal. Nothing gives you an emotional connect more than a marathon does, because it is the only mass participation sport in the world. It’s like if you are running and you pick up a bottle of water at that time and you see a Kingfisher water bottle, that emotional connect one cannot buy. When you finish running you say thank you to the people who have put this together, that is an emotional connect. That is what the marathon brings to the table. Of course, there is the 360 degree that it offers, but there is one more thing that it offers, it serves as an HR initiative platform. It is also a good CSR activity.
Speaking of brands, a big difference between the Delhi and Mumbai marathons is the difference in approach of the two title sponsors. Airtel has not shied away from spending big bucks on marketing the Delhi event in a huge manner across, television, print and outdoors. One can’t say the same for StanChart. Is it that over the last seven years of its association it has become so embedded into the event that StanChart sees no need for it? Or are we missing something?
To be honest it is the product, Standard Chartered at the end of the day has home loans, fixed deposits and so on. But when you talk about a sim card, it is a product like an FMCG. You can’t really compare FMCG to a financial institution.
Marathons more than any other big sporting event offer the maximum community connect. Can you outline the direct benefit that events such as these offer the community, in this case Mumbai city, in turn?
When I started there were 800 people in the full marathon and 3,000 people in the half marathon, today 11,000 will run in the half marathon and it was over-subscribed in 14 days. What does that mean? It means that people are changing their lifestyle. It takes six months to prepare for a full marathon and three-four months to prepare for a half marathon. This means that I am changing my diet, how much I eat, how much I drink, and how much I sleep. Which one will never do it otherwise? Now when you realise that thousands of people are changing the way they eat, drink and sleep, that is what we want.
What kind of opportunity do you see in merchandising vis-à-vis the marathon?
Merchandising is a nascent and fledging department, whether it be cricket or any other game, compared to the west. Still, we do all the nine yards at the Mumbai Expo from selling event merchandise, to shoes, to health and fitness tips, everything.
Do you plan to take distance running to other cities apart from Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai?
Yes, we would certainly like to do that, however, it's not an easy one to do. India is a tropical country, which is the biggest challenge we have. There are certain months when you cannot run and it’s a huge challenge.