ON N.J. SPORTS MARKETING
You may not know John Korff but you probably know of him. If you have ever been to the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, heard about the annual run up the Empire State Building or been to the always fun but now departed A and P Tennis Classic in Mahwah, then you have seen John's work. Always a promoter, always a smart businessman and marketer.
For years Korff has also taken on the land and water around New York for the New York City Triathlon, the annual bike, swim and run that draws sellout crowds and a huge amounts of sponsors. This year, Korff and team have stepped it up to bring the Ironman U.S. Championship, the ultimate international endurance race, to both shores of the Hudson. With 2,500 participants, the $895 race slots sold out in just 11 minutes. It’s the most expensive triathlon in the Ironman series, with the typical entry fee for a race about $575. The 2.4 mile swim in the Hudson (which may have to be curtailed or canceled due to a sewage spill Thursday), the 112 mile bike race down the Palisades and the 26.2 mile run is the ultimate endurance test, one which attracts major brands, fills hotel rooms and brings thousands out to watch from the wee hours of the morning until late at night.
Bringing the Ironman itself to New York is not an easy task. The New York City area has its challenges, from shutting down the Palisades Parkway for hours to the added costs of multiple municipalities assigning police and other crews to the above mentioned potential pollution issues suddenly unleashed on the Hudson, which on a normal day has the strongest of strong tidal currents and miscellaneous debris floating along with it. However for all the issues, the opportunities of exposing the brand to the largest possible audience in the largest media market are still a huge positive.
The Ironman is not for everyone, but the stories that come from the competitors certainly are and the millions of dollars raised for charities by the participants are also a huge plus. Then there is also the intangible inspiration factor that goes along with any Ironman competition, the fact that some casual fan may be drawn in and encouraged to get a little more fit or pass along some good will to another as a result of the almost super human ability that these everyday competitors possess during the competition. For the brands, they get to connect with a core devoted to product and appreciative of the support. They also get a certain spill-over into the general public by being associated with the race. What was once just an identification by the consumer becomes a little more solid by connecting to an event that inspired them.
There's some flash and dash and a little extra vision needed to pull off such an event and that's where Korff's mastery comes in. By controlling the marketing and extending the brand into the community, the longtime area resident can help take what may be just a casual connection to the race and make it a must see for those along the route. Those interested become consumed in the event and maybe will be inspired to train or at least pass their experience on to others, whether that is through traditional word of mouth or through social media.
Whether they get to swim or not on Saturday due to circumstances beyond their control is really irrelevant to the event exposure and the inspirational messaging that Ironman will bring to the area. The most important thing is that the spectacle is happening, is well managed and well marketed here in the biggest media market. If that all falls into place for Ironman and its promoter, the business race will be a success before one competitor hits the course in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Joe Favorito has over 24 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. Visit him at JoeFavorito.com.