Combining picturesque, coastal visuals with the prestige of a race that comes with the International Association of Athletics Federation’s (IAAF) Gold Label status, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon has become one of Australia’s most anticipated annual sporting events.
One of only two marathons in Australia, and 25 globally, to hold Gold Label status, it draws a combination of elite and recreational runners from across the globe which acts as a significant tourism driver for the region according to event organisers.
With an economic impact of $24 million for the Gold Coast in 2016, Events Management Queensland CEO Cameron Hart told Bullpen on the eve of the 39th edition of the Marathon that he expects it will generate a similar return this year.
“We anticipate it,” he said. “That’s generally on the back of 80,000 bed nights.
“A lot of our runners travel from interstate or overseas. We’ll have 3000 plus international runners and approximately 16,000 to 17,000 interstate runners.”
A domestic broadcast deal with Channel Nine has been inked and will air two weeks after the marathon has been run. Even more crucial for the event is its international broadcast distribution that will reach 850 million households in 120 countries across the globe.
With that kind of reach a key objective is to appeal to the marathon running tourist. Hart explains the broadcast strategy is two-fold.
“One is the tourism appeal of the Gold Coast as a global holiday destination and secondly around the race itself. You can categorise major marathons into two categories: The first is the big city marathons, so that’s London, Boston, New York. Then you get the category which we call the ‘destinational marathons,’ like Gold Coast, Honolulu, those races where runners will come and spend a greater amount of time because of the destination on top of the appeal of the race itself. The big city marathons, while they do attract global participation, is largely a ‘reputation’ event,” Hart explained.
Hart also adds that the visual aspects of the Gold Coast is designed to add to the event’s global coverage.
“Our television coverage focuses on our course and this is designed to profile the city. There are two major benefits, one it’s close to water, and secondly the vision and aerial shots showcase the Gold Coast coastline such as Burleigh Heads and Surfers Paradise. That acts as a tourist driver and huge advertisement for the city but also showcases the world class running that goes with the event.”
In 2016 Gold Coast Marathon chairman Kerry Watson was quoted as saying, “We believe that the growth in the local community and from our near Asian countries will be a target for our marathon activities.” Hart added by saying while the opportunity is big, the answer is a lot simpler.
“The easier it is to get to a destination the more appealing it is,” he said.
“Through our relationship with our naming rights sponsor, Gold Coast Airport, we target destinations throughout South-East Asia, China, Japan that have strong aviation connectivity with the city’s airport.”
Hart also said that they are strategic when it comes to targeting South East Asia. “We have that triangulated approach of finding a destination that has a good airlink to the city, secondly has a strong running culture within the community and thirdly, where possible, it also has a major international marathon.
“Largely our success in South East Asian markets has been working collaboratively with other big marathons throughout Asia and promoting the fact that you can fly directly to the Gold Coast.”
Less than a year out from the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Hart explained that there is close consultation between both Games and Marathon organisers.
“We’ve developed a really strong base of delivery IP around what you need to do to successfully deliver a big event in the city between our marathon, our sister event the Pan-Pacific Masters Games and others.
Firstly, when the Commonwealth Games bid was prepared, it was based on a strong track record on the Gold Coast of delivering world class events. We’ve been working with GOLDOC (Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation) virtually since day one, sharing intelligence, systems and protocols around community engagement and supply.”
The intelligence gathering spreads further, with Hart saying he does observe overseas marathons to compare and contrast to Australia. He travels to races throughout South East Asia, as well as the United States and New Zealand.
“I do it to see if there any new trends or activities that we can incorporate and importantly it’s also a good indication of consumer trends,” Hart said.
After much discussion about internationalising the event, a balance has to be struck as the event must boost the Gold Coast.
As Hart concludes, “At the end of the day the Gold Coast community need to be able to support the event. We have to execute a good community engagement program but you must always build a strong rapport with local residents.”