In 1919, Sir Dorabji Tata, the second chairman of the Tata group, was invited to the annual Deccan Gymkhana sports meeting in Pune as the chief guest. The participants achieved times close to European standards. They were mostly poor peasants with limited resources, forced to run barefoot.
Being himself a talented sportsman (he was an athlete and a horseman), this incident gave him the desire to see an Indian contingent at the Olympics. The following year, Dorabji personally funded India’s first-ever Olympics team which was held in Antwerp, Belgium.
Thus began Tata Group’s association with competitive gaming. Its IT and consultancy services arm – Tata Consultancy Services, rated among the most valued companies (Rs 12 lakh crore), has been one of the biggest sponsors of major sporting events. The association of TCS with marathons deserves special mention.
TCS’ association with marathons began in 2008 when they became the junior sponsors of the Mumbai Marathon. In over a decade, the company has become the leading sponsor of long-distance running events in India, Canada, New York and London, among others.
TCS and marathons
TCS COO N Chandrasekaran was 51 when he started training as a runner. His first major goal was to complete a full 26-mile marathon in 2008. He encouraged other TCS employees to take up running, and soon the company officially launched a program called “Fit4Life” to help employees to adopt sedentary lifestyles and promote well-being. Today, the program has become one of the largest fitness initiatives in the world, with more than 25% (189,000) of TCS employees actively participating.
In the next step, TCS has decided to realign its entire sports sponsorship strategy. Soon, TCS signed up as associate sponsor of Mumbai Marathon and TCS World 10k in Bangalore. In 2011, the company signed its first international partnership with the Amsterdam Marathon in 2011. Since then, the company has sponsored marathons in several cities, such as Canberra, Chicago, Lidingö (near Stockholm), etc.
Last year, TCS announced that it would continue to be the main sponsor of the New York Marathon until 2029. Interestingly, the United States is TCS’ largest market and contributes 50% of the $22 billion in revenue. Prior to this, TCS also added the London Marathon to its list of 11 running sponsorships. The London Marathon is the fourth largest marathon in the world, and TCS would now be its technology partner for all the events it sponsors. In an interview, Rajashree R, Chief Marketing Officer of TCS, said that these events play a pivotal role in bringing their customers, employees and partners together on one platform. She also said that sports, in general, is a great association for the brand. “Any place where technology helps humans do better is the intersection we love,” she said, adding that hosting these races, which also showcase their technological prowess, is an area of concern. interest in TCS.
Not just marathons, TCS is betting on other sports like Formula E. To that, Rajashree said the decision to partner with motorsports like Formula E was made because research on the fringes of those sports dictates the roadmap for electric vehicles, and TCS wants to be part of the journey.
For TCS, being exposed to half a million riders across 12 properties, with 2 million viewers live and another billion on TV, is a huge marketing opportunity. This strategy has worked wonders for the tech giant – an example in New York, where the company received an 81% brand recall as the title partner of the New York City Marathon.
These marathons also allow TCS to demonstrate its digital and technological capabilities. TCS has developed mobile applications, which have proven to be a real success. According to company sources, these apps have been downloaded 1.2 million times worldwide while setting a world record in London and New York.
For the 2021 TCS New York Marathon, the TCS app helped in-person and virtual runners, as well as fans and spectators, share the marathon experience. The “Track a Runner” feature helps families and supporters track runners on a digital map, find them and greet them when they finish their marathon. TCS has also made extensive use of data analytics to provide performance biometrics such as pace, heart rate, breath rate, and cadence, helping participants improve their performance. Additionally, for its upcoming London Marathon, TCS will use its technology to personalize the experience of participants and spectators using data.
Other than that, these marathons often double as fundraising events, generating a lot of goodwill for the brand. In one estimate, the company said the New York City Marathon made more than $400 million. In 2018, the London Marathon event raised £63.7 million, setting a new world record for a one-day charity event.
“The TCS Marathon strategy is a big step forward, but a long and rewarding road still lies ahead of us as we examine global leadership on the brand front,” one of the TCS blog posts mentions. It looks like TCS would continue to bet big on marathons and other sporting events for an organic and, dare we say, unique marketing strategy.