For four decades the London Marathon has had a consumer-facing brand as its title sponsor, from Gillette and Mars in the 1980s to the more recent Flora and Virgin Money.
But that will change on Sunday, the first race of its rebranding as the TCS London Marathon as part of a six-year contract with the world’s biggest IT company.
The deal is part of a wider investment in running by TCS, which is owned by Indian conglomerate the Tata Group and also sponsors the marathons of New York, Toronto and Amsterdam.
TCS head of sports sponsorships Michelle Taylor says the company sees value in the sport as one that chimes with its potential customers and an alternative corporate activity to golf.
“The demographics of the marathon certainly line up to TCS’s target demographics,” Taylor told City A.M. “There’s a lot of C-level executives who participate in the sport so there are a lot of good business connections that come from it.
“And we really see running as another engagement opportunity, similar to golf in some ways. We’re not there yet but in our minds this is where we’d like to see things go.
“We hear stories all the time of our executives meeting up with clients, going for a run, training together – if you’ve never met a runner who doesn’t talk about their training, then you really haven’t spoken to a lot of runners.
“It’s a huge connection point so certainly it helps enhance relationships, without a doubt.”
That opportunity is all the greater because of all the groundwork that goes into preparing for distance running and marathons in particular, says Taylor.
“Triathlons and marathons – the training cycle is really long, so that engagement period is six months, maybe longer,” she added.
“It’s not just about race day but the journey to get to race day and the celebration afterwards. A lot of meaningful connections can be born out of this sponsorship.”
TCS’s association with the London Marathon is not new; it has been the race’s technology partner and provider of its official app since 2016.
In that capacity, during the pandemic it helped facilitate a virtual race that runners will again be able to take part in remotely this weekend.
In addition this year, TCS will be lending its data expertise to the organisers’ efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2024.
“It used to be that people didn’t think of technology as being endemic to sport. Now we’re seeing it’s not only needed in sport but it’s a critical game changer,” Taylor said.
“We’ve been a partner with London Marathon Events since 2016 when we started our technology partnership with them. We also felt, going into this partnership, that if a bigger role existed we would be interested.
“The London Marathon is an incredible platform for doing good. For us to be able to leverage our expertise and technology to enhance the event is incredible and we’re really grateful for the partnership.”