The New York City Marathon Picks a Brooklyn Agency to Help Move Its New Message

Madwell to promote world's largest competitive foot race

Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn in the race's early stages.
Getty Images

The world’s largest organized foot race has picked a new marketing partner.

Brooklyn-based indie agency Madwell won a 10-shop bid to become agency of record for TCS New York City Marathon, which is sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services and organized by New York Road Runners.

“We chose Madwell for their big, creative ideas that brought to life the transformative power of running and the power of the TCS New York City Marathon,” said Road Runners vp of marketing and digital Ronnie Tucker. “We’ve been running a campaign, that we loved, for three years and are looking forward to refreshing our creative through Madwell’s idea which touches on the many emotions of the TCS New York City Marathon journey whether you are a runner, spectator, volunteer or fan.”

BBDO New York won the account in 2013 and developed a multi-platform campaign centered around the tagline “26.2 miles make it a race. You make it a marathon.” Several months later, Tata arranged for an 8-year sponsorship deal, which ended the 10-year relationship between the Marathon and Dutch financial firm ING. Rage & Grace (now Cramer-Krasselt) later created the “Get Your New York On” effort, which has run for the past three years.

Madwell chief creative officer Chris Sojka said the review was less about the new sponsor than a desire to find a new angle for the event’s marketing efforts. “The brief was about creating a sense of urgency around participation in the race,” he told Adweek.

Local pride made the win especially important to the Madwell team, whose pitch focused on the concept of movement. “Every single person who decides to run is being moved in a different way, both literally and metaphorically,” Sojka said.

Madwell also drew inspiration from a documentary about Marathon founder and former Road Runners president Fred Lebow. The Romanian native fled his home country after World War II and worked in New York’s Garment District marketing brand name knockoffs before turning to long distance running in the 1970s in an effort to improve his stamina on the tennis court. He died of brain cancer in 1994.

The official Marathon drawing begins today, and the full campaign will roll out later this month ahead of the event on Nov. 5.

Since the Road Runners is a non-profit organization, the NYC Marathon is largely a prestige account rather than a source of revenue for agency partners. U.S. viewership often tops 5 million for live broadcasts of the event, which includes some 50,000 runners, 10,000 volunteers, and 2.5 million spectators lining a 26-plus mile course that moves through all five of the city’s boroughs.