The Boston Marathon: A $192M brand

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$192,000,000. That’s the dollar value the Boston Marathon brings to the city. For the more than 30,000 runners, and the 600,000 or so families and friends here to cheer them on, eat with them, coach them, and be there to lean on whenever they finish, it’s probably more.

For the last four days, I have had a guest from Italy staying in my house, who is about to hit the starting line (in about 35 minutes, as I write this). She’s so clear – this is a dream come true.

Those of us who live here sometimes see the Marathon as yesterday’s parade. Roads are crowded, we can’t get to work, and if we don’t run it, it’s someone else’s event. That’s the apathy that brands work so hard to conquer – flipping our potential disengagement into emotional connection.

The Marathon has won it and lost many times over. Won it with remarkable stories of personal victories. Lost it, temporarily, with moments of flawed operations, and potential cheating. Lost it again as it let in more runners who earned their bib number by raising money for charity, not their qualifying times. And sadly, regained it after the bombing 2013, as the city itself rose with passion, and the ugly aftermath of what followed is now largely outside our view.

The Marathon is a major brand, up there with the world’s biggest, with a force of its own: What accrues to the Marathon spreads to its ecosystem, including Boston. Walk by a marathoner, and it’s hard not to feel the energy.

Yesterday, I saw my guest’s shirt and jacket, which happens to be really nice this year. She’ll go home to her town of 42,000 people around 60 miles northwest of Venice with swag worth showing off, not just for its history, but because for the last four days, she’s lived it, with practice runs along the river, Sunday’s nerves, and at 6:15 this morning, the first leg: to the bus that brings all the runners to the starting line, 26.2 miles away. As everyone building brands knows, the experience is what it’s all about.

Her bib number is 15398, if you’re tracking any runners. She’s aiming for 3:30.