NYRR says “Ta-Ta” to ING

After a decade awash in a sea of orange, the New York City Marathon will switch colors to royal blue for the next eight years, as organizers announced a new title sponsorship with Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian IT firm which will replace Dutch financial giant ING as the race’s deep pockets.
NYRR-logoIt’s no secret that Mary Wittenberg, NYRR CEO, has spent considerable effort the past year or more seeking to replace ING, which announced it was ending its 10-year deal with the race following last year’s Hurricane Sandy-induced cancellation. The timing of that release was purely coincidental but was nonetheless a kick to an organization that was already down after its flagship event had been torpedoed for the first time in its 42 year history, not only by the gale force winds and water of Sandy, but even more by the shifting political winds of City Hall, from where Mayor Michael Bloomberg imperiously declared “the race will go on,” then did a 180 less than 48 hours before the starting gun when it became apparent that the majority of citizens of the Big Apple were opposed to holding a five-borough fitness celebration when so many of them were without power, water, or even shelter.
In the days and weeks that followed there were some cries to sack Wittenberg, who through the entire process had been caught between a rock and a hard place and merely following the dictums of the mayor’s office. Indeed, it might have been the toughest period of her eight-year leadership of NYRR, a stretch which had generally been marked with unprecedented and generally uninterrupted success and growth.
But in addition to being a dynamic leader and executive, Wittenberg is also a runner (she won the Marine Corps Marathon in 1987) and knows that there are ups and downs, good stretches and bad, in every race.
Last year’s non-marathon was the equivalent of hitting the wall for NYRR, that point in a marathon where one’s energy stores run out and walking, even dropping out, seems a more appealing alternative.
Good runners figure out a way through this rough patch to get to the finish, and now, with a new long-term sponsorhip agreement in place, it seems that the NYC Marathon has gotten a shot of financial GU that will get it through the next miles with renewed energy and drive.
To be sure, T.C.S. is hardly the name recognition equivalent of Apple or Exxon, but then, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? When ING came on board as the marathon’s title sponsor in 2003 it was a virtual unknown in the U.S. (remember those ads where someone or something was seemingly obscuring the rest of a verb that came before “ING”?) and now, after sponsoring not only New York but Hartford, Miami and other North American cities, is right up there with Wells Fargo and Citibank. Doubtless that is the motivation behind T.C.S.’s decision, although the number of potential customers, even among 40,000-plus marathoners, must be far smaller for an IT firm than an international bank.
Whatever the eventual payout is for T.C.S., which will also be a principal sponsor of each of NYRR’s major borough events, the Fifth Avenue Mile, the New York Mini 10K, the Midnight Run, as well as some youth programs, they’re on board now through 2021, and that’s good news for marathoners everywhere.


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