TwinCities In Motion: The Case for ASICS at ‘The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America’

Minnesota’s 35th annual Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon took place on a visually stunning,  orange-glow fall day this weekend.

Also dubbed, “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America”, the event attracted thousands of runners and thousands more of their friends and families to a route that boasted views of the Minnesota State Capital, the giant St. Paul Cathedral, the newly-built U.S. Bank Stadium and it’s 66,000+ Vikings game attendees, the skylines of both downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Mississippi river valley and the several lakes and parkways that intertwine with the Twin Cities’ notoriously beautiful green space.

2016 was an abnormal year for the annual Twin Cities Marathon, as it’s usual October 1st-2nd weekend was occupied by the Ryder Cup in nearby Chaska, Minnesota. Instead of competing for municipal and private resources with the world-stage golf event, the marathon committee and city officials elected to hold the event on the following weekend — a weekend that also  included the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the Portland Marathon and dozens of other smaller marathon events around the nation.

Despite the competition, the Twin Cities Marathon drew 5,000 volunteers and over 10,000 runners spanning ages 13 to 88, with 30 percent of runners being first-time marathon participants.

For reference, the Chicago Marathon boasted 37,000 runners while the Portland Marathon had 7,000, making the Twin Cities Marathon the second-largest running event of the weekend nationwide.

In order to participate in the event, runners had to complete their registry by picking up their itinerary and number as well as checking in with race officials at the Twin Cities in Motion Health & Fitness Expo.

The expo itself housed 120 vendors in addition to the traffic from all 10,000 runners checking in with their families. Vendors included local run specialty retail stores, various nutrition and health brands, representatives from shoe companies themselves and dozens of other fitness related marques.

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Upon entering the expo, the first of several vendors appeared. Fleet Feet out of Minneapolis held the first and last impressions of the expo as their station was set up at the entrance of the floor. Partnered with ASICS last year and Brooks this year, store owner and former Wisconsin track star John Long outlined the template of how his run specialty store and others like his partner with different brands for these pre-marathon expos, providing exposure for their partners and credibility for their fitness enthusiasts. John’s store even houses a podiatrist and several running experts. While John described ASICS and Brooks as 1) A and 1) B sellers at his store, this year Brooks took the cake in exposure at his market’s largest exposure event.

Aside from Fleet Feet, additional running specialty stores who had merchandise booths at the expo included GEAR Running Store (partnered with Newton) in suburban Minneapolis, Mill City Running (partnered with Saucony) out of Northeast Minneapolis, Running Room (partnered with Hoka) in Uptown Minneapolis and Run N Fun who have stores in St. Paul and Minneapolis and partnered with no one.

Retail managers and store owners at each of these stores’ vending booths talked with customers about their favorite shoes and what they see their customers wearing, often electing to highlight their partners and sponsors.

While ASICS might aim to reach their consumers at larger events like the Chicago, New York or LA marathons and at the big-box store level, there was virtually no exposure for running diehards at the Twin Cities marathon expo and the absence was noticed. One man was prompted to ask a run official, “Where is ASICS? Does ASICS have a booth here?”

In fact, there was one pair of ASICS shoes on display at the entire expo within the Run N Fun booth, amidst a rack of their direct competitors.

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Within the nation’s top 15 media markets, housing 19 Fortune 500 companies and a consistent audience that often ranks in the top three for consumption amidst national media affiliates, Minneapolis/St. Paul is a media market powerhouse that ranks favorably with the biggest media markets despite a disproportionate population.

Media market aside, the Twin Cities consistently rank in the top two fittest and most active cities in America year in and year out, thanks in large part to an abundance of green space and a favorable infrastructure that includes miles of running and biking trails.

What these stats mean to say is that the Twin Cities area houses one of the most avid fitness communities in the world, along with a top media market, several top businesses and a well-informed population.

During a weekend that packed in tens-of-thousands at the Iowa/Minnesota rivalry football game, tens-of-thousands at the Vikings/Texans football game, well over ten thousand runners at “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America” and thousands more spectators, tens-of-thousands at a Kanye West concert with Adidas promotions outside and a marathon route that passed by in direct contact with all of these events; ASICS had almost zero visibility at a mega event that very well could have created hundreds-of-thousands of in-person, direct impressions.

With national and regional media coverage of the football games of the weekend, additional millions of impressions may have been missed with vendors and marathon routes that came in direct contact with video coverage on B1G Network and CBS.

Though ASICS fights to gain exposure as a lifestyle brand and continues to be a top choice for running and fitness enthusiasts universally, their effort (albeit most likely deliberate) to their core following at a major running event appeared to be next to zero. When the Twin Cities Marathon rolls around next fall, ASICS might benefit from consistent and creative exposure strategically placed in one of America’s most fitness-forward areas, giving uprising competitors a run for their money.

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