Over 65,000 runners teemed through the boulevards of Paris on April 6, making this year’s 38th Paris marathon the largest ever. The scale of the three day “Running Expo” Marathon Business Exhibition that preceded the race showed how the worldwide popularity of marathon racing is boosting the markets for sports nutrition, sports training and sports gear. And in Paris – of course – sportswear fashion is always a focus of attention.
The financial success of the Paris marathon has become a platform for the largest consumer sports business show in France. Revenues from registration fees alone reached 6.5 million Euros, over nine million dollars, and top sponsorships for Nissan and Asics sportswear added nearly a million dollars each. Watching the marathon itself demonstrated why these investments are well worth the costs. A quarter million spectators and supporters line the course, usually with digital cameras, and upload millions of photos with sponsor imagery to social media.
Running Expo showed that the marathon business itself has become as global as the airline and communications industries. Running Expo featured an entire pavilion of different regional marathons promoting the attractions and challenges of their courses. Venice, for example, limits marathon registration to 8,000 runners – a necessity in this historic city of narrow bridges. The registration limit has also become a good incentive to sign up early! The Rock & Roll marathons, operated by Competitor Group in San Diego, is expanding internationally with its signature feature of live music to Lisbon, Dublin, Madrid and Montreal. In China, a country better known for exports than for its huge imports of high performance marathon sportswear, the Peking Marathon is set to celebrate its twentieth anniversary this year.
The huge scale of the marathon market supports the volume necessary for mass manufacturing of high performance equipment and sportswear – a volume that smaller sports communities like kayaking or cross-country skiing cannot match. Precision GPS watches that help runners optimize their training and on course paces are so popular that manufacturers can sell them to consumers for under $150. At the Running Expo, the Timex Ironman series competed for sales with the “Tom Tom Runner.”
Recent advances in materials science are sprinting ahead in the form of next generation sportswear that enhances runners’ condition and comfort. Skins of Australia featured lightweight running outfits designed to keep runners up to five degrees Celsius cooler than outside air temperatures. The women’s sports fashion firm Anita is providing women runners with superior support in the form of lightweight high-technology sports bras. Aerodynamic design minimizes air resistance to maximize running speed and air control designs keep runners cooler. These cool sportswear innovations are reinforcing the image Running Expo wants to promote for marathons – that marathons are cool all around the world.