NYC Marathon running to social

Author Maximillian Duran, University of San Francisco

Author Nancy Navas, University of San Francisco

Posted: October 14, 2015

Event organizers in the field of sport are constantly trying to create a greater sense of belonging amongst participants and have began to use social media more heavily as a tool to drive retention and loyalty. One such example is that of the NYC Marathon, which is hoping “to leverage the tens of thousands of photos that runners already post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as they train” and create what they are calling the “Journey Campaign” (Fischer, 2015, p. 7). With this, event organizers are looking to bring about a larger social media buzz and engage participants long before the event actually takes place. This concept will help to maintain and increase fan loyalty because an attitude is one thing. However, when a fan chooses to outwardly speak about the team or event publicly and use social media to associate themselves with said group, we begin to deal with their actions, which hold high value in building loyalty (Pritchard, 2014, p. 124).

One of the influencing factors for event attendance is sport attractiveness, which includes league or team competitiveness, team and player performance (Pons, Giroux, & Mourali, 2014, p. 23). NYRR marketers used tennis star Caroline Wozniacki to promote the journey campaign by using her own photos from last year to build the slideshow example (Fischer, 2015, p. 7). Using a professional player who is a professional in a different sport to market the product was a good strategy. They used the player’s performance and physical skills to create attractiveness to the running sport for a diverse group of fans, from marathon fans to tennis fans and anyone who could relate with her journey. Also, they created a unique hashtag (#tcsnycmarathon) as their brand for this marathon. The development of a strong brand is often presented as the solution to instill trust and trigger fan loyalty (Pons et al., 2014, p. 34). Overall, the slideshow campaign with Caroline Wozniacki along with the branded hashtag was personal and motivating.

The Marathon is hoping to capitalize on the concept of personalized jerseys and t-shirts used by the professional sports world by enabling participants to create their own videos to commemorate their experiences (Pons et al., 2014, p. 34). Mary Kearl, a senior manager at the NYRR, said it best, “We decided since marathoners are on such a personal journey, we wanted to give them a personal option to choose which photos were most meaningful to them” (Fischer, 2015, p. 7). By giving people the opportunity to be creative and hold some stake in their final product, event organizers are working to promote brand loyalty, as this is a unique experience to the NYC Marathon. They are also working to continue to keep existing fans engaged. This sense of self is one component of an individual’s commitment to loyalty, but we must also examine how they fit into a larger group.

“Sport identity occurs when an individual integrates a sport into his or her sense of self, resulting in the sport becoming an integral part of their self-definition” (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 45). By doing this, the NYC Marathon organizers are hoping people will see value in themselves but more importantly, how they fit into the larger social community. All participants are unique but their dedication to the race itself will unite them and create a pseudo-community for them to be apart of. This video campaign gives fans the opportunity to have best of both worlds; they can be the athlete and the spectator of their own journey. The prime example of social category membership is sport identity, which represents an individual’s knowledge that he or she belongs to a specific sporting group (Funk & Lock, 2014, p. 45). This branded experience has emotional value, symbolic meaning, and functional significance, which makes up a group membership and allows these fans to feel like they are a part of this marathon-sporting group.



Fischer, B. (2015, July 26). NYRR, Spredfast offer runners chance to chronicle experience. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(14). Retrieved from

Funk, D. C., & Lock, D. (2014). Sport Consumer Attitudes: Formation, Function and Effects on Information Processing. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 37-50). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pons, F., Giroux, M., & Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Behavior and Motivation: Why Are Sport Event Consumers So Special?. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pritchard, M. P. (2014). Building Loyal Consumers in Sport Business. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 123-141). New York, NY: Routledge.

About Nancy Navas, University of San Francisco

Nancy is a graduate from The University of Redlands with a bachelor’s in Business Administration and a minor in Visual & Media Studies. She is currently working on her master’s in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco and is a sales associate for Nike and a volunteer for UCLA’s Marketing Team.

About Maximillian Duran, University of San Francisco

Maximillian is currently a graduate student at the University of San Francisco Sport Management program. Having a longstanding relationship with sports, both as a player and a professional, he is looking to take his competitive advantage to the next level in the fields of development and sponsorship. With the recent emphasis on technology and how it is impacting the sports world, he is hoping to capitalize and make a name for himself. This article is an edited version of a paper Nancy and Maximillian prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Sport Marketing class at the University of San Francisco.

IImage of New York City Marathon 2014 by Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Accessed via Creative Commons license.