Baltimore marathon is on track despite loss of Under Armour as title sponsor

Under Armour's decision to not renew its title sponsorship of the Baltimore Running Festival won't change the experience for participants, its organizer said Monday.

"Obviously, it's a lot of money," said Lee Corrigan, president of Corrigan Sports Enterprises. "But we're in a spot where we can withstand that and still make money, still turn over a lot to the city as a charitable donation."

Under Armour, the Baltimore-based athletic apparel company, has been the event's title sponsor since 2003. But its support of the marathon was unusual in the industry, where most races are sponsored by financial institutions that want to reach an audience that is generally well-educated.

Matt Mirchin, Under Armour's senior vice president for global sports marketing, said the sponsorship originally arose because the event needed support.

"Lee came to us and needed that, and we saw the value for the community," Mirchin said. "It has proven over the years that it has become a top-class event, and it should be in position to need less support from a title sponsor."

The running festival, scheduled this year for Oct. 12, drew 26,000 runners last year and had an economic impact of $39 million, organizers said. It donates some of its profits to the city, and raises $1.7 million for charitable causes, Corrigan said. Registrations are up 15 percent over last year, he said.

"We're going to be completely fine," he said.

Under Armour will divert the money it spent on the race — about $500,000 — to other projects in the city, Mirchin said. He couldn't discuss details, but said the projects could be similar to the work done at Dunbar High School, where it paid to refurbish the football field and computer labs.

Corrigan said the lost revenue will be made up through new sponsorships from shoe retailer DSW, ShopRite and Transamerica. A new contract with the vendor that handles race registration will lead to an additional $3 in revenue per runner, amounting to another $80,000, he said.

He'll also limit costs by dropping the $150,000 in prize money that had lured elite international runners to the race.

Still Corrigan is seeking to sell the title sponsorship at $500,000, but said the figure is negotiable.

Under Armour will continue to provide T-shirts — Mirchin estimated their value at $35 each — for the runners, which is one of the organizing body's largest costs. Corrigan said his relationship with Under Armour founder Kevin Plank remains strong. The companies also partner on the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic.

"I asked why he didn't think we were worth that level of investment, and he told me he thought they could help the community, the kids, in a more direct way," Corrigan said. "What was I going to say to that?"

Scott Douglas, an editor at Runner's World, said the loss of Under Armour as a sponsor likely wouldn't hurt the race in the short-term. The absence of elite runners eventually could cost the race some of its prestige, he said, and could lead to more costs being passed on to runners.

"That's why the top people are generally out there dealing with sponsors, not measuring the course," he said. "That's their main concern, keeping it popular and affordable."

Under Armour's branding won't suffer, said Matt Saler of IMRE's sports division. Runners still will don shirts with the Under Armour logo.

A change in how the company spends its money in Baltimore also would fit within the company's most recent advertising push, which revolves around a commercial showing area high school football players preparing for the season.

"Spreading their spend makes sense," Saler said. "It's always smart to create good will, and setting aside more for grass roots here makes sense given their latest spots."

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