By Lloyd Carroll
The 2017 TCS New York City Marathon received a lot of unwanted publicity the Tuesday of race week thanks to the ISIS-inspired vehicular rampage in Lower Manhattan which ended just blocks from the World Trade Center. Whether the location was coincidental or not, many New Yorkers understandably thought back to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
Since the New York City Marathon was just days away with so many spectators and runners taking part in a wide open area the concern was palpable.
New Yorkers are rarely afraid and they certainly weren’t on Sunday as they once again lined the streets to cheer on nearly 50,000 participating runners without incident.
I’m not sure if this was karma but Shalane Flanagan became the first American to win the women’s side of the NYC Marathon in 40 years. She edged out runner-up and three-time past winner, Kenyan Mary Keitany. Keitany’s countryman, Geoffrey Kamworor, won the men’s race. No native American has won the men’s race since Alberto Salazar crossed the Central Park line first back in 1983.
The best race story, in my opinion, was watching the very popular 42-year-old Meb Keflizighi, an Eritrean who moved to San Diego in 1987 and became an American citizen in 1998, just finish out of the top ten finishers. Meb, who won the NYC Marathon in 2014, had said that this would be his final November race through the five boroughs.
The biggest celebrities to run the Marathon this year were actor/comedian Kevin Hart, fashion model Karlie Kloss, and former Giants running back and CBS Sports Radio morning personality Tiki Barber.
Even though the New York City Marathon receives almost no attention on New York sports talk radio and in the dailies except for the day after the race it is a major driver of the fall New York economy. Tourists come from all over the world to take part in the race and that is a boon to our restaurants, points of interest, and hotels. It’s also a key reason why controversial Airbnb has become a major race sponsor.
Needless to say, the NYC Marathon is also a major event for the athletic outerwear industry. New Balance, the only major athletic shoe company that manufactures all of its products in the USA, became the official sports apparel company for the NYC Marathon for the first time this year. New Balance doesn’t have much of a footprint in the pro and college basketball world where Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas battle for market share and celebrity supremacy, so it figures that running is a good place for the company to plant its flag.
The running industry has long been hospitable to smaller athletic footwear companies as evidenced by the success of Asics, Saucony, Altra, Newton, and Brooks Running.
Staying on topic, the Sports Business Journal held their annual Sports Marketing Symposium last week in Manhattan. One of the panels included representatives from fairly new sports media entities as Stadium Sports, The Players Tribune, and Barstool Van Sports.
Barstool Van Sports, a digital outlet that targets millennial guys by talking smack as often as possible, was on the verge of getting invaluable exposure on ESPN which was going to run its most popular program, “Pardon My Take,” at 1 AM on Tuesdays.
The problem was that Barstool air personality Dave Portnoy had taken verbal shots at the talent of ESPN football pregame host, Samantha Ponder in the past and she let it be known to all that she was not happy about the Worldwide Leader in Sports doing business with them. After some dithering, ESPN president John Skipper canceled “Pardon My Take” after one airing.
It seemed to me that all Barstool executives had to do was apologize to Ponder and say that it was just trying to get some attention in a crowded marketplace. Now that they are playing the big leagues they would behave differently.
At the Sports Marketing Symposium Barstool Van Sports CEO Erika Nardini made it clear that her company would not express their regrets for its past actions with ESPN. My guess is that they don’t want to offend their frat boy audience by doing something that wasn’t “authentic” to use a favorite meaningless buzz word of marketers these days.
Stadium Sports (watchstadium.com) is a digital sports platform that is already on Apple TV and will soon debut on both Roku and Amazon Fire. It has traditional sports commentary programs and streams a lot of live college sports programming.
One of Stadium’s sportscasters is Abby Hornacek, the daughter of Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, who interviewed iconic golfer and very successful clothing entrepreneur Greg “The Shark” Norman at the Sports Business Journal event.
Coinciding with SBJ’s Sports Marketing Symposium was another conference and trade show, Ad-Tech, which was taking place in Chelsea. While Ad-Tech looks at how technology has affected advertising and overall media, it did not forget about sports. National Hockey League Chief Marketing Officer Heidi Browning and former New York Islanders great Pat Lafontaine spoke about the challenges facing the NHL in an era when millennials are not only cutting the cord with respect to cable television subscriptions and don’t seem interested in traditional broadcast television either.