On Friday, Jan 30, Lee Corrigan, owner and operator of the Baltimore Marathon and Corrigan Sports Enterprise (CSE), discussed getting sponsors and running the Baltimore Marathon.
Corrigan first explained that CSE always tries to operate internally with everything they do rather than relying on others to help with their event planning and coordination. In the past, the company relied on other people to help with organizing and running events, but sometimes they were let down, leading them to handle all of their own events. “We don’t leave our fate in the hands of little old anybody’s,” Corrigan said. He added that it would be easier to fulfill their sponsorships if they did it themselves. “We create all our television commercials, again, because we don’t want to rely on anyone,” he said.
The idea for the marathon first came to Corrigan when he said that Baltimore, Md. was the only major city without a major running event. Corrigan posed the idea to Kurt Schmoke, the mayor at the time. Corrigan said he already had a slight introduction to Schmoke because his father had been Schmoke’s lacrosse coach. Schmoke agreed to the idea on the condition that the marathon would circle through all of Baltimore in order to show the city to the runners and all the televised viewers.
Next, Corrigan needed to attract broadcast networks in order to let people know about the race. The WBAL-TV manager had started the Boston Marathon and understood what Corrigan wanted to do, and he gave five free hours of coverage as well as 100 free 50-second television commercials. WBAL radio is also managed by a marathon runner, and they agreed to help as well. “You can see that I was very fortunate in that respect,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan wanted to attract more than just marathon runners to the race. “Finding people who run 26.2 miles is not easy. They grow on trees,” he said. Instead of making only a 26.2 miles marathon run available, Corrigan also added a 5K and a children’s run in order to make it more accessible to the public and promote fitness and referred to the race as a running festival rather than only a marathon. This also makes the race a community engagement. Corrigan said that in years past, the Baltimore marathon has received more viewing time than Notre Dame football games and championship baseball games because everyone in Baltimore knows at least one person competing in the race. Additionally, he said that the race usually raises around $40 million for the city because of people coming from out of town, staying in hotel rooms and renting cars.
The race also help to raise money toward charity. Since the marathon began, Corrigan said they have raised over $15 million. The race also features the charity chaser, an experienced runner who starts the race last. The main sponsor of the Baltimore Marathon that year will then promise to give two dollars to charity for every runner the charity chaser passes. This makes the race extremely profitable to the charity as well as to the sponsor because they get free publicity.
In hosting the marathon, Corrigan and his team also have to work in planning, scheduling and timing the race. Corrigan said that one year the Baltimore Marathon was almost scheduled on the same day as the Orioles’ championship game at their home park. “We had to come up with a plan B, a plan C and a plan D,” Corrigan said. After they came up with the plans, Corrigan then had to pitch them to the mayor and the chief of police in order to get their approval as well.
Corrigan explained that a key aspect of raising money and getting sponsors is to not give up. “You just keep shopping. It’s a game of getting as much against the wall as possible and see what sticks,” Corrigan said. He added that it can be discouraging and frustrating when sponsors turn them down, and that it is common to get rejected more than accepted. “The more ‘no’s you get, the closer to a ‘yes’ you are,” he said. The worst that would come out of a rejection would be a funny story. “Just do a good job with it and relax and have fun,” he said.