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In its search for a race sponsor, BAA may well put the Boston Marathon name up for sale – The Boston Globe

These are all speculations, but with the departure of John Hancock as the race’s title sponsor following next April’s race, the Boston Athletic Association could be heading for a real crossroads between the long-term financial security of the event and a modification of its 135 years. Last name.

“If we go back in time, John Hancock saw the positioning of the event the same way the BAA wanted to see it, and it was great for that time and that era,” said Jack Fleming, interim CEO. of the BAA. “We are in another era and another era. And we’re just getting started with what it will look like next.

The last time the BAA went looking for a lead partner was 37 years ago.

Then, as the race waned and the BAA president feared that intrigued sponsors such as McDonald’s and Coors were “stealing our virginity” by over-commercializing the race, John Hancock saved the day. He agreed to keep his signature name and logo in the shadow of the name of the race, his sponsor and that ubiquitous unicorn logo.

The future holds three possibilities: another main sponsor like John Hancock, a presenting sponsor like Moderna’s example, or a title sponsor like Dunkin’.

Given the race’s rich history, the enviable demographics of Boston and the other seven cities along the route, and the more than 30,000 participants themselves – as well as the fact that nearly every other major international marathon already have title sponsors – the next sponsor will want to share space with Boston Race.

“All three will likely be in play when we enter negotiations,” Fleming said. “At the moment, we’re very open to hearing what’s also important to the sponsor and what their partnership would look like – and scope and terms matter too.”

A sponsorship change is looming for the Boston Marathon.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Jonathan Jensen, a sports marketing professor at the University of North Carolina and a sports sponsorship consultant, thinks the BAA will look to a title sponsor rather than a presenting or main sponsor.

“If you put yourself in the position of the Boston Marathon, do you take what is going to be less money and add a presenting sponsor or do you go with a sponsor who is willing to pay more to be the title sponsor” , said Jensen, who estimates a title sponsorship deal would cost around $3-5 million a year, with the BAA and next sponsor looking for at least a five-year deal.

The Hancock Affair

David D’Alessandro was vice president of corporate communications at John Hancock when he sat down to breakfast with BAA executives in 1985.

Already plagued by a financial hubbub in a previous sponsorship attempt and a serious decline in the quality of the peloton (Englander Geoff Smith won the 1985 race by five minutes, even though he walked to the finish line with leg cramps), the BAA, as D’Alessandro recalled, “was really, really sensitive, for good reason.”

So when D’Alessandro asked then-BAA President Frank Swift what he meant by the “steal our virginity” remark, Swift told him, “We don’t want to commercialize racing too much and we don’t do not want to give away any right to sell goods and services.

Reading out the room, D’Alessandro asked John Hancock to step down from the primary sponsorship status of the title sponsorship he was seeking.

“The challenge at the time was to form a partnership here that wasn’t trying to squeeze every dollar out of the BAA; that’s how it happened,” D’Alessandro said. “It wasn’t because we had the best offer [$10 million over 10 years]it is because we sympathized and sympathized with their point of view.

David D’Alessandro (shown in 2003) was instrumental in John Hancock’s original sponsorship deal which took effect with the 1986 race.NORMAL BETS

As Fleming noted, the BAA recognizes that the sponsorship landscape in 2022 is different than in 1985.

This is an observation based on reality.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult for them to avoid title sponsorship,” D’Alessandro said. “A ‘bluebird’ could fly to BAA headquarters and drop $50 million over five years or something without a title sponsorship, but that’s going to be tough. Hardline sponsors are more likely to try to get a title sponsorship and get into the merchandise and everything.

Off the top of his head, D’Alessandro mentioned three potential sponsors – Moderna, State Street Bank and Vertex – as plausible Boston-based candidates.

“I think the BAA should accept the longest possible deal for the most money with the least trade penetration – let’s call it the ‘semi-virgin’ deal,” D’Alessandro said with a laugh. “If they can get one. I don’t know if they can.

The degree of difficulty is high.

“It’s a three-corner shot on a pool table; it’s not easy to do,” D’Alessandro said. “It’s possible, but I think the BAA will come under pressure to give more commercialism than they have in the past.”

Ideally a partner

Jensen predicts that Boston sports fans will be “desensitized” enough to accept a named Boston Marathon, especially in the likely event that the new sponsor takes a respectful approach to history.

“If the sponsor is focused on, ‘Hey, we’re going in, we’re going to show deference to the history and the legacy of this event, we’re going to make it better, we’re going to promote the event’… then I don’t don’t think there will be a lot of backlash,” Jensen said.

“Whether [the new name] becomes part of the common vernacular, I think that will take some time to determine.

Fleming described the pressure points that the BAA and her potential partners will test during the seduction process.

“No. 1, we want a sponsor who will be a partner, who will not only work with the BAA, but who will appreciate the iconic stature of the flagship event,” Fleming said. “Boston is very important to the sponsor and to us. .”

A partnership with a Boston-based company, like John Hancock once was (now owned by Manulife of Toronto), would be ideal.

Racers could see new sponsorship of the legendary race sooner rather than later.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

“It would be wonderful if a Boston-based company came forward and was identified,” Fleming said, “[or] a company that might want to come to Boston or a company that considers Boston very important to their business.

“But, we have to be prepared for the possibility that someone who isn’t based in Boston or isn’t headquartered in Boston is also a great possibility and a good fit.”

While John Hancock never got the naming rights, D’Alessandro was able to secure a logistical legacy that should stand the test of time no matter which company joins the ride.

The 1985 marathon ended on Boylston Street outside the Prudential Center, home of then race sponsor Prudential, also a competitor of John Hancock.

With John Hancock’s skyscraper at Clarendon and St. James Streets just off Boylston and about four blocks away, D’Alessandro rode the 26.2-mile course map. He straightened out a loop in Ashland that allowed the BAA to move the finish line in 1986 about 300 yards from Boylston past the Boston Public Library, fairly close to John Hancock’s headquarters.

“I think the community likes him the way he is, where he is,” Fleming said. “We could make a little tweak here or there, but we’re really not looking to do that.”


Michael Silverman can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.



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