NEW YORK — Asics and Foot Locker are among the sponsors for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, but plenty of other athletic brands will also be making their presence known.
With 30,000 runners expected to traverse the five boroughs and more than 2.5 million spectators lining the 26.2-mile course, the event is one of the world’s premier road races. Shorts and singlets will be getting plenty of air time, with TV coverage planned for 125 countries. Running attire isn’t typically the most stylish apparel, but that hasn’t stopped organizers from staging the event’s first fashion shows at the ING New York City Marathon Expo.
Sponsored by Asics and Best Buy, the fashion shows will feature entrants in the race wearing New York City Marathon apparel and will be held tonight and Saturday afternoon at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. More than 75,000 runners and fans are expected to visit the four-day health and fitness expo, which is open to the public and wraps up Saturday. Activewear companies make up about 10 percent of the 100 exhibitors.
Interest in the expo has been so strong that the New York Road Runners’ Club, the marathon’s organizer, is looking into broadening its space for next year, said Ann Hinegardner, chief marketing officer for the NYRRC. Last year was the first time vendors were allowed to sell product at the expo.
Hinegardner expects “the buff,” a kerchief that can be worn as a hat, scarf, headband or in a variety of other ways, to be a bestseller.
Michelle Ave, performance apparel product manager for Reebok, said, “It’s really surprising to me how many people shop for race day at the expo. You’d think they’d want to wear it once or twice before then.”
In addition to performance-oriented running gear, Asics will be selling more sweatshirts and casual wear than in years past. Of the Asics marathon merchandise available at the expo, Asics usually sells 99 percent of its goods, a company spokeswoman said.
On race day, Asics-sponsored Deena Drossin will pace a group of 10 female runners who are trying to qualify for theOlympic trials. Eamonn Coghlan, who holds the world record as the only athlete over 40 to run the mile in under four minutes, is coaching five Foot Locker-sponsored runners trying to win the retailer’s Five Borough Challenge, a race within the race. Nine-time NYC Marathon winner Grete Waitz will be signing autographs at Adidas’ expo booth. For the past two weeks, Equinox has offered elite marathoners free access to its health clubs.Fila has challenged its elite runners — Martin Lel, Raymond Kipkoech, Joshua Chelanga and 2001 marathon champion Margaret Okayo — participating in Sunday’s race to capture the women’s and the men’s titles. Should that happen, Fila will make a $100,000 cash donation to the City Parks Foundation, which provides free athletic programs to children.
For the past 11 years, Fila has sponsored Discovery Kenya, a training program that develops elite marathon runners in the Rift Valley in Kenya. In the past two years, Fila-sponsored athletes have won 52 international marathons. The company plans to donate activewear, footwear and funding to the City Parks Foundation just as it has done in its Kenya program.
Jon Epstein, president and chief executive officer of Fila said, “For the 2003 NYC Marathon, we have challenged the Fila team to run not only for individual glory, but to run for the children of the City Parks Foundation running program. We hope to make a difference in the lives of the children of New York through support of running programs just as we have done with Fila Discovery in Kenya.”
Expo shoppers can buy the same style of “team singlet” and “team shorts” in which Fila runners compete. Each item is made of the brand’s Performa fabric, which features moisture management, waterproofing and antibacterial elements.
Postmarathon massages at Niketown, free pace bracelets and running gait analysis are some of the freebies Nike is offering at its runner’s lounge that is set up in the atrium adjacent to its 57th Street store through Saturday. Nike-sponsored runners Marla Runyan and Catherine Ndereba will offer race tips and sign autographs there Friday afternoon.
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs is also on Nike’s marathon roster in a more indirect way. Nike is among the corporate donors, which include Calvin Klein, backing the rapper’s bid to donate $1 million to children’s charities by completing the marathon.
Nike is also asking consumers to cast their ballot for their favorite running spots in New York City. The most popular area will be announced on Nov. 7 and will be refurbished with Nike funds. Nike will donate one pair of sneakers to a local youth group for each person who casts a vote at nikerunning.com or the Niketown here.To help runners find their way to Paragon Sporting Goods, the store is offering free bus service from the expo to its Union Square store.
Reebok will showcase its Premier running apparel, a collection that bowed at last year’s marathon, at an event this afternoon at Reebok/Sports Club NY. Elite runners Jorge and Edwardo Torres, Steve Jones, Abel Anton and Martin Fiz will be on hand for the event.
Reebok expects its $38 Grand Prix tank with a sewn-in sports bra and a hidden pocket to be a bestseller, Ave said. The Reiti $32 short-sleeve Play Dry shirt with mesh underarm inserts is also expected to be a favorite with women. Reiti refers to the Italian town that hosts a competition of the same name that capsthe running season.
Knowing runners from 100 countries will be hitting the tourist spots this weekend, the company has a Reebok-clad female runner on a Times Square billboard as part of its Wear the Vector Outperform advertising campaign. The media and elite athletes attending this afternoon’s event will also get to preview Reebok’s spring advertising. They will check out a 30-second Wear the Vector Outperform commercial featuring Reebok-sponsored athletes Carolina Kluft, Nic Mac, Andy Roddick and Allen Iverson.
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