RPA Runs (and Runs) for Honda

LOS ANGELES Now entering its 13th year of handling Honda’s Los Angeles Marathon sponsorship and the 12th year of the Acura L.A. Bike Tour, creative directors at RPA found the marketing run to be a long, slow race.

Associate creative directors Nathan Crow (art) and Eric Helin (copy) were briefed in April 2007 on the annual marathon, this March 2, after which the team at the Santa Monica, Calif., independent began developing the look and basic concepts, said Crow.

“Our initial idea was to change what had historically been three directions — a different look for broadcast, outdoor and bus panels — and give it one look across the board,” Crow said.

The team had also decided that the message should be “simple, to break through the madness of cluttered chaos, something almost as simple as line drawings.”

Before hitting the wall, metaphorically, they found illustrator Andy Mueller, whose retro style has been employed by Girl Skateboards and Art Dump magazine, among others. It is one of his first forays into mass media advertising.

One poster adapted to several out-of-home uses combines the copy “The L.A. Marathon 03.02.08” and a cartoon drawing of the city being lifted up and transported by runners’ legs. Honda and the marathon seal are at the bottom.

Four outdoor displays use the same art and localize the copy for particular neighborhoods with copy such as “Run, Downtown, Run,” or variations on the runners and illustration in “Run, Freeways, Run” and “Run, Griffith Park, Run.”

Crow said that idea came out of the Mueller collaboration. “We thought the focus on neighborhoods would have the effect of showing how the marathon brings the city together,” he said.

Broadcast includes a retagged spot from last year that shows runners interspersed with L.A.-centric activities such as surfing within tie-dyed color silhouettes.

New media ideas this year include a subway station domination at the Universal City stop near the movie studios.

American Honda Motors, Torrance, Calif., spent $2 million advertising the marathon and bike tour locally last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.