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The London Marathon marks one of the biggest and most iconic running events in the world. Currently in its 30th year, with close to 15 million followers in Britain - 30% of the British adult population - the London Marathon has become a key event in the British sporting and cultural calendar.
In 2010, after 14 years, Virgin Money replaced Flora as the official sponsor of the London Marathon. Flora's sponsorship period lasted the longest in the Marathon's history, resulting in an extremely strong brand-event bond, which Virgin Money will be keen to emulate.
Newly released insight from Kantar Media's TGI survey reveals who these 15 million people that follow the Marathon are. They tend to be skewed towards the older age groups and be financially aware. They are over a quarter more likely to be TGI Lifestage 'Empty Nesters' (aged over 55 and do not live with their children) and 30% more likely to hold investments beyond regular bank accounts (stocks, shares etc).
With these financially engaged 'Empty Nesters' in mind, Virgin Money's replacement of Flora as sponsor may prove well-suited to Marathon followers. People aged 55 and over who are no longer living with their children may have more savings, assets and greater disposable incomes than many other groups. Indeed, TGI data reveals they are 20% more likely than the average adult to hold three or more savings accounts. Thus they could prove a particularly key target audience for many of Virgin Money's services, such as ISAs, insurance and pensions.
Attitudinally, there is a real sense of Marathon followers adhering to healthy lifestyles, providing a good match with the ethos of the event. They are more likely to look to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, as well as actively try to include more fibre in their diets.
In terms of reaching Marathon fans, both sponsorship and advertisements have a better than average chance of getting through. They are around a fifth more likely to find TV advertising interesting and enjoy the fact that it gives them something to talk about. They are also almost two thirds more likely to enjoy adverts whilst watching sports than at other times. In addition - in good news for Virgin Money - they are 50% more likely to buy products from companies who sponsor sports events and teams.
Newspapers stand out as one of the most efficient media for reaching Marathon followers. They are almost 30% more likely to be amongst the heaviest fifth of readers of newspapers. They are also over a third more likely to be interested in sports coverage in newspapers. Newspapers naturally act as a good fit for the Marathon, with many publishing in-depth coverage of the event along with finishing times for all runners - a good way for followers to check on friends and family who ran. Television is not too far behind newspapers as an efficient means for reaching Marathon followers, with them around 20% more likely to be in the heaviest fifth of consumers of TV.
Focussing on the keenest Marathon followers is very useful up to a point, but it is important to keep in mind the sheer numbers who take an interest in the race. It really is a national institution. For a brand with naturally broad appeal, the potential of reaching 15 million adults, whoever they may be, is in itself of great value and offers Virgin Money the opportunity to hugely expand its customer base with activity around one mass public event.