Dublin Marathon slowdown as sponsorship gap forces cutbacks

‘Things are pretty bleak,’ says race director as entry fee to be increased for first time in nine years

Runners at the start of the 33rd Dublin Marathon last year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Runners at the start of the 33rd Dublin Marathon last year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sat, Mar 30, 2013, 06:00

Lack of sponsorship has forced organisers of this year’s Dublin Marathon to make substantial cutbacks for the 2013 event, including a one-third reduction in prize money and the elimination of an elite athlete fund.

The entry fee will also be increased for the first time in nine years, although race director Jim Aughney has told The Irish Times this is essential for the survival of the event in the face of such an adverse sponsorship climate.

“Things are pretty bleak,” says Mr Aughney. “It just happened that most of our contracts expired around the same time. We lost a title sponsor last year [when the National Lottery withdrew], and while we have talked with a large number of companies and feel we have a very strong package to offer, unfortunately everyone we’ve spoken to so far has opted for nothing.”

The Dublin Marathon, now in its 34th year, has become the city’s main attraction on the October Bank Holiday weekend, and last year drew a record entry of 14,350 runners: the 2013 sponsorship package, which would include the four-race countdown series in the summer, plus a TV highlights package, is estimated at about €200,000, and yet Mr Aughney’s team can’t seem to find a buyer.

“Our numbers certainly stack up, and last year, in total, we would have had 36,000 runners, between the marathon and the race series,” he said.

“We certainly haven’t thrown in the towel just yet, but right now we’ve had to cut our elite athlete budget completely. For the past number of years we’ve invited up to 30 runners, many Kenyans and Ethiopians, paid their way here, and put them up for a couple of days. That’s gone.

“We’ve had to reduce our prize fund quite considerably too, the top prize of €15,000 down to €10,000.

“And we have had to increase our marathon entry, from €70 to €75. That’s actually our first increase since 2004, and I hope our runners will understand the difficult position we’re in. That’s still a bargain compared to many of the other big city marathons.”

The event has, however, benefited this year from funding from Dublin City Council thanks to The Gathering: the Dublin Marathon was selected as one of their flagship events and provided with some essential funding.

“We’ve made it our intention to provide the same quality event for the mass runners, as much as possible, and not to let this impact on their enjoyment of the event,” said Mr Aughney.