Admit it! You rolled your eyes in October 2013, when the New York Road Runners announced Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as the new title sponsor of the New York City Marathon. No? At least admit you furrowed your brow. Or whatever you do to express wonder at the marketing process led up to THAT brand alignment decision.
I will admit it that I was confused. TCS is a $13.4B global IT services provider based in Mumbai India, with 300,000 employees in 46 countries. Part of the Tata conglomerate, TCS competes with other Indian IT service providers, like HCL and Infosys. TCS offers IT services that range from application development, to business process outsourcing, and IT Infrastructure Services. When it comes to brand alignment, TCS’s targets are large enterprises, not consumers. And endurance sports? Nothing to do with them at all.
Brand Alignment Examples That Make Marathon Sense
26 companies have sponsorship deals with the NYRR for the NYC Marathon. For many of them, the sponsorship seems to make more sense when it comes to brand alignment. They target consumers, not corporations.
50,000 runners will finish the race. Most of them from out of town. They can fly United and find a place to stay with Airbnb.
Of course, they need running gear. They can run on Asics, or shop Foot Locker for additional brands.
Brand alignment for companies that help fuel the runners CAN also produce some eye-rolling and brow-furrowing.
Runners can stay hydrated with Gatorade, good old water from Poland Spring, or Coors Light? Well, it is a sporting event. And if it’s light beer, it must be good for you, right?
They can refuel with PowerBar, Snyder’s pretzels, or Dunkin’ Donuts? Not the traditional training food, but it’s true that “American Runs on Dunkin.”
Analytics – Where Tata’s Brand Alignment Makes Perfect Sense
So, there I was, trying to make sense of this sponsorship decision, when I came across the “Analytics” section of the NYC Marathon website. It’s easy to overlook, WAY over on the far right of the tool bar, but it is a veritable gold mine for endurance athletes like me who love to analyze data.And of course, it’s the data analytics that represent TCS’s core competency, and value proposition to the US enterprise market. Sponsoring the NYC Marathon enables TCS to highlight its capabilities in new, growth driving markets like mobility, cloud, big data analytics, and social computing.
Ten Amazingly Cool Facts from Tata’s NYC Marathon Analytics
I could spend hours looking at the data in this section of the NYC Marathon website. TCS has analyzed data from all of the NYC Marathon finishers from the race’s start in 1970 through today. The data is organized by gender, age group, and home country, and is presented in five different categories. Here are my favorite 10 facts, organized by category.
1. The Sandy Effect
2013 saw a spike of about 2,500 US runners, with a corresponding decrease in non-US runners. This effect is likely due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy which caused the cancellation of the 2012 race . The controversy around the last minute decision to cancel the race may have led Dutch financial firm ING to decline to renew its sponsorship.
2. Women Runners are on a Roll
In 2013, 40% of the finishers were women, up from zero in 1970. Of course, Kathrine Switzer broke the marathon gender barrier in the 1967 Boston Marathon with her famous tousle with Jock Semple, and won the 1974 NYC Marathon.
3. Women 18-29 Out-finish Men
For the last two races, more women than men finished the race in the 18-29 year old category. Maybe the guys are drinking too much Coors Light and eating too many donuts.
4. Most People Run Four Hours
For 2010-2013, 3:59 was the statistical mode finishing time. More people finished in that time than any other. And this is true for every age category up to 60-69! I can only hope to run a 3:59 marathon when I hit 60!
5. Watch Out for a Speedy 80 Year Old!
One of the 3:59 finishers in 2010-2013 was in the 80+ category!
6. Most People Have ALWAYS Run Four Hours
Just under 4 hours was the most frequent finishing time for every decade since the race started, except for the 1st decade, when 3:28 was the mode. It’s more fun to blame the beer and donut effect, but this is due to the increasing participation in marathon by recreational runners.
7. NYC Marathon Fever Never Strikes the Same Place Twice
In every decade, a different country has led the highest increase in number of finishers from outside the US. In the 80s, it was France. In the 90s, it was the UK (which also led in the 1970s). From 2000 to 2009, Italy led. And Australia has led for the last 3 races. Since this is a measure of increase in number of finishers, as opposed to the gross number of finishers, my interpretation is that runners from outside the US return year after year.
First Time NYC Marathoners
8. “One and Done?”
Since the 1st decade, the % of veteran runners has continually decreased from 31% in 1980-89 to 22% in the 2010-13. This means either that new runners continue to flock to the sport, or that few recreational runners who run NYC once have the desire to do it again.
9. Never Too Old to Run
41% of the 70-79 age group runners in 2010-13 were 1st timers!
Age Graded Performance
This section is perhaps the most interesting section. Age grading, as described by Runner’s World, allows runners to correct for gender and age in order to provide a comparison.
10. Hang on for Dear Life!
The data from the 2010-2013 races shows that negatively splitting the marathon is extremely rare. Only 5.2% of runners ran the 2nd half of the marathon faster than the 1st half. And the data shows that more elite runners are less likely to do it. This shows that more experienced runners save nothing for the end of the race. They set their pace and then hang on through the finish line.
Branding Alignment After All
So, on further review, TCS’s sponsorship of the NYC Marathon does make good sense from a branding alignment perspective. The “Analytics” section not only provides really interesting information for data nuts like me, but also aligns well to TCS’s new growth drivers in cloud, mobility, and big data analytics. With the increasing popularity of Fitbit and other personal mobile devices, we’ll soon be able to track the field in real-time. More analytics to come!
Let me know what you think. Check out the Analytics section yourself, and let me know your favorite data set!