Abbott, a global healthcare company based in Illinois, is the first title sponsor of the World Marathon Majors, the partnership of six mass participation races in Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. The four-year sponsorship, which will start in 2015, was announced Friday morning in Chicago, which is holding its marathon on Sunday. The World Marathon Majors has considered title sponsorships for several years, Chicago Marathon race director Carey Pinkowski told Runner’s World Newswire. The WMM directors “personally and collectively” felt “the opportunity with Abbott, and where they’re going, was a great fit,” he said. The affiliation with Abbott will mean an infusion of money (an undisclosed amount) and a new promotional outlet for the World Marathon Majors. The existing title sponsorships that several of the races have will not be affected, Pinkowski said. Chicago’s title sponsor, Bank of America, is “excited about the partnership,” Pinkowski said. “They’ll bring an energy and a partnership that will help elevate the races on a global platform,” Pinkowski said. Concerning specifics, Pinkowski said, “We’re so early into the relationship. We have a nice clean drawing board. We’ll start looking at it.” The World Marathon Majors are best-known for the $500,000 winner-take-all awards given to the male and female leaders of a two-year point standings based on finishes in WMM races, plus the World Championships and Olympics. The prizes are given annually, but point allocations overlap the latest two-year period. The WMM mission statement mentions a united effort “to advance the sport, raise awareness of its elite athletes, and increase of the level of interest in elite racing among running enthusiasts.” Abbott, formerly Abbott Laboratories, has four distinct branches of its operations, but consumers most likely know it for products such as Similac, Ensure, and EAS protein shakes and bars. Their new company title comes with a motto, “Life … to the fullest.” Abbott’s chief marketing officer, Paul Magill, told Newswire that public thinking about health care is now “much more around people being able to do, and experience more, and [about] health providing an enabling power to open up life’s possibilities.” Abbott considered several ventures into participatory sports, but “one of the things we like about WMM as a series is that it’s global and it is year-round,” said Magill. "It’s not a narrative platform that comes around once a year.” The Abbott/WMM partnership had its genesis in Pinkowski’s friendship with Tom Crawford, a sports marketing executive who had done work with Abbott and knew the company was looking for a suitable affiliation with mass participation athletics. After an early spring meeting, Pinkowski said, “I convinced him and the Abbott leads to come to London, where they saw one of our World Marathon Majors international markets and got to see some great racing, the Expo, and the activity of the media.” They met London’s race director, Hugh Brasher, and the New York City Marathon’s Mary Wittenberg, who was also in London. “They got to feel the chemistry of the race directors,” Pinkowski said.
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