BLOG | by Joseph Eapen

The Indian running boom – How distance running became big business for sponsors

If I asked you to think of the traditional homes of distance running, I suspect you’d be pretty far down your list before you got to India. Yet in January next year, more than 45,000 runners will gather in Mumbai for Asia’s largest long-distance race – the Tata Mumbai Marathon.

Organisers now count the event as one of the ten biggest marathons in the world. It’s the biggest mass participation sports event in the country, as well as a springboard to an estimated 1,000 other road races which now take place around the country.

In short, long-distance running is growing fast in India.

In some ways, you might just say that India is following a wider global trend for greater mass participation in running. But in actual fact while global growth may have stalled, the market for distance running events in Asia, and in particular India, continues to increase in size.

In fact, at evidence presented at the 2019 Global Running Conference by RunRepeat, India has enjoyed the biggest increases of any country in marathon running over the past ten years, with growth of 230%.

It’s certain that numbers like these will have helped to persuade Tata to come on board as the Mumbai Marathon title sponsor in 2017, with a ten-year deal.

While the deal was not huge in terms of value for Indian sport (you would, for example, have to spent 15 times more to get your hands on rights to the IPL), it’s looking pretty enormous value right now.

According to our ROI analysis (see above), Tata’s deal represents great value for both parties. For example, the cost (INR29 crore/$4m/3.7m Euro) is big money for a mass participation event, particularly when you add on the value of having such a well-known brand involved.

But from Tata’s point of view, it’s not just a great fit with its corporate values. It also provides a return on investment multiplier that is bigger than the IPL, the Pro Kabaddi League and soccer’s Indian Super League can currently offer. It’s more than ten times the value of the initial fee.

While India is top of the growth league for marathons, Tata will want its partnership to improve on another metric – India is at the very bottom of rankings for gender balance, with women making up only 9% of runners. If it can help broaden the appeal of distance running to more women, Tata will have a deal that is delivering even more value for money by the time its deal is up for renewal in 2027.

Photo © Tata Mumbai Marathon Facebook Page

The State of Running 2019 Report is the first mapping of Global running participation by and the IAAF. The analysis covers 107.9 million race results from more than 70 thousand events from 1986 to 2018. This is by far the largest study of race results in history.

Read full report

BLOG | by Joseph Eapen

Senior Vice President, India

Joseph has 20 years’ experience in marketing research and media measurement.  He joined YouGov Sport from Repucom where he was SVP South Asia. Prior to that, he was at Media Research Users Council (MRUC), an industry body in India, where he was CEO and responsible for the Indian Readership Survey 2010 (the largest readership study in the world). He was previously the CEO of aMap, the second largest overnight TV ratings company in the world.