September 30, 2013

ING to end Hartford Marathon sponsorship

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
The ING Hartford Marathon will get a new name in 2014 as race organizers search for a new title sponsor.

Economic Impact

The ING Hartford Marathon has an estimated $11 million economic impact in Greater Hartford, according to an analysis by Witan Intelligence Strategies Inc.

Here's a breakdown of where that money is being spent:

Lodging 29%

Recreation 26%

Meals 20%

Transportation 14%

Shopping 12%

ING U.S. Inc. is not renewing its title sponsorship of the Hartford Marathon after this year's race, officials say.

ING U.S., with major operations in Windsor, will end a six-year reign as lead sponsor of the state's signature running event as it separates from its Dutch parent and rebrands into a new company — Voya Financial.

ING U.S. joined the Hartford Marathon as title sponsor in 2008, replacing Hartford's United Technologies Corp.

"We have decided to change course on our sponsorship and marketing platform," said ING U.S. spokesman Phil Margolis.

ING U.S. is also dropping its title sponsorships of races in New York and Miami.

ING's decision comes as volunteers and staffers prepare for this year's Oct. 12 marathon, which is expected to draw 18,000 runners and 57,000 spectators.

Race director Beth Shluger said the Hartford Marathon Foundation is already searching for a new 2014 title sponsor, which it hopes to have in place by the end of this year.

Shluger said they are looking for a title sponsor that wants to be "a full-fledged partner in presenting this event to the community."

For 2013, however, ING's orange and blue colors will still dominate the race.

Shluger said ING has been a great partner for the Hartford Marathon Foundation, helping to elevate the race onto the national stage.

"We're accommodating more runners than ever in our 20th running," Shluger said. "The experience on race day has continued to improve for our participants thanks to the generous support of ING and all of our sponsor partners. We look forward to building upon these successes."

Sponsors are the lifeblood of community events like marathons, providing funding, supplies and volunteers that help make them happen.

For businesses, sponsorships are a chance to give back to the community and market their brand in front of a wide audience.

The Hartford Marathon relies on dozens of sponsors each year who contribute various amounts of money and resources. West Hartford's Legrand North America, for example, will be a race sponsor this year, making a financial contribution to the marathon, said Jaime Widmer, the company's human resources manager.

Widmer said the sponsorship helps get the Legrand brand name out in the community. The company hosts a booth at the finish line and also has a team of employees who run the race.

"Internally, participating and supporting the marathon has brought employees together, and built team morale," Widmer said.

Other firms offer supplies as an in-kind contribution.

Margolis declined to say how much ING has contributed to the race over the years, but he did say the company will have 200 volunteers at this year's event. ING staffers will anchor water stations, hand out metals, and contribute in various other ways.

ING U.S. was formerly wholly owned by Dutch financial services giant ING Groep NV, which sold a stake in its U.S. insurance business earlier this year. In May, ING U.S. had an initial public offering and the company will officially rebrand as Voya Financial next year.

As part of that change, ING U.S. has shifted its marketing and sponsorship strategy, moving away from putting its name and logo on running events, Margolis said.

He said ING U.S. took over as title sponsor in 2008 to support the region, where it has a major foot print. The company employs more than 1,700 people in the state, mostly in its Windsor campus on Day Hill Road, Margolis said.

The ING Hartford Marathon hasn't had much title sponsorship turnover in recent years. Prior to ING, Hartford's United Technologies Corp. was the lead sponsor from 2002 to 2007. Before that, Aetna held that title for eight years.

In addition to the Hartford Marathon, ING also sponsors Run For Something Better, a program that encourage kids to participate in the sport of running and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Thousands of children are expected to participate this year, Margolis said.

Participants in the initiative run various times per week in the weeks leading up to the race, and then arrive on marathon day to complete their final mile.

ING also contributes to United Way, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and Junior Achievement, among other initiatives, Margolis said.

The ING Hartford Marathon has long served as an economic stimulus to Greater Hartford, helping to fill hotel rooms, bars, restaurants, and other tourist attractions around the state.

In 2012, the marathon brought in at least $11 million of economic value to the Hartford area, according to an analysis by Witan Intelligence Strategies Inc. About 29 percent was spent on lodging, 26 percent on recreation, and 20 on percent meals. The remaining expenses were for transportation and shopping.

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