PUMA Runs Wicked Far with Marathon Cause Marketing

Marathon day in Boston always inspires fun and interesting promotions. This year footwear and apparel maker Puma is promoting a cause marketing promotion that benefits Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that provides shoes to poor people around the globe.

Throughout marathon weekend runners have been putting in miles on the treadmill at PUMA's 333 Newbury Street location. For each mile recorded on the in-store treadmill PUMA will donate $100 and a pair of shoes to Soles4Souls.

This promotion runs right through marathon Monday so lace up your shoes and head to Newbury Street!

What's great about this cause marketing promotion is that anyone can do it. You needn't be a big international footwear company like PUMA. It's a simple action-triggered donation program that could be executed by any business that wants to help a good cause by having a run for good on a treadmill.

Sure, a store that sells running footwear and clothes is perfect for this promotion. But the idea could work at a bank, health club, the lobby of a skyscraper or where gym equipment is sold.

Just because the elite runners set the pace doesn't mean you can't trod the same course.

The hospital has its own marathon day promotion. We recently partnered with LevelUp, a Google-funded company, which has launched the first local deal site that drives loyalty and brings in new customers who keep coming back again and again.

Today's deal is at Laced, a sneaker boutique in the South End. For anyone that buys the 1st Level/deal at Laced over the next 7 days, BMC will receive 25% of the proceeds.

The LevelUp Street team is promoting this opportunity all day along the marathon route with our very own Ashley Zolenski who will be decorated in LevelUp tattoos on each arm (shhhh...we're not sure they're temporary tattoos).

If you're out on the marathon course today be sure to watch for Ashley "LevelUp" Zolenski!

New Balance's Boston Marathon Ambush Lacks Cause

I love how Boston-based New Balance is attacking the Boston Marathon like I wish I had attacked Heartbreak Hill when I ran the great race in 2005. They've outpaced the official shoe sponsor of the marathon, Adidas, and come up with a strategy to leave their mark on the hometown run.

They're doing everything that will connect their brand with the world's greatest race--except pay the sponsorship fee.

Little guys--both non- and for-profit--take note: pushing the envelope may earn you dirty looks from fat cat sponsors and event organizers. But nothing is gained in this world without risk and toeing the line between following the rules and breaking them.

And New Balance didn't break any rules. Even Boston Athletic Association chief Guy Morse concedes: “That’s on the fine line. It is still a free country at some level. It is taking advantage of an event they’re not associated with,’’ Morse said. “I’m not happy about it. But that’s the way it is.’’

You can read about New Balance's ambush of the marathon in the Boston Globe. But as much as I admired New Balance's campaign, I can't understand why they don't have a cause component. During the years my nonprofit had large teams in the Boston Marathon we recruited sponsors for marathon cheering sections based on our access to the course and the halo we enjoyed as a charity.

Check out these two posts I wrote in 2007 and 2008.

Even though we were successful at getting many corporate sponsors, including big brands like Toyota of New England, on the race course, the BAA would never had let New Balance on the course. The competition between Adidas and New Balance  is simply too fierce.

But that doesn't mean New Balance couldn't have sponsored a charity team and splashed their logo all over their training and race-day apparel. Just last year I had 60 runners on my marathon team and would have welcomed a sponsorship from New Balance. And I'm sure I'm not the only charity.

Sponsoring a charity team would have put New Balance right in the middle of the race!

Here's an idea that would have made sure that all eyes were on them.

The challenge with sponsoring a charity team is that regardless of how big the team is each runner is goes at their own pace and team is flung from Hopkinton to Boston.  As a sponsor looking to make a splash and a statement you never get to "mass your forces." The devastating volley I would fire would have a team running at the same pace for one cause and one sponsor.

Just picture this: 30, 40, 50 runners from the same charity, in the same apparel running the Boston Marathon course. Who wouldn't ask: "Who are they?" I've mentioned this to people and they've said, "But how you going to find that many people to run together?!"

We can pass health reform but we can't find 30 people to run a marathon together? Please. A determined nonprofit and a sponsor like New Balance could definitely make it happen.

Who would have thought a Boston running shoe company like New Balance would take on Adidas at the most hallowed road race in the world? New Balance should tear a page from another shoe company's game book and just do it.