MORRISONS is to take over sponsorship of the Great North Run and its affiliate the Great Yorkshire Run in a multi-million pound four-year deal.
The supermarket chain said it is keen to expand the current 12 Great Run nationwide running events to double this number over the next few years as it taps into customers’ demand for healthy living.
It also wants to extend the series to its home city of Bradford and elsewhere across the North. The Great Yorkshire Run is based in and around Sheffield.
The deal will be Morrisons’ biggest ever sports sponsorship and will tie in with its link-up with Geordie TV presenters Ant and Dec, who have been official starters of the Great North Run in the past.
The pair have already signed another ITV deal with Morrisons to sponsor their Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent TV shows.
The Great Run series was founded in 1981 by former Olympic medallist Brendan Foster, who said the aim is to increase the number of participants from the current 225,000 runners to over half a million within the next few years.
“The thought of having a Great Run in Bradford, that’s a really exciting prospect for us,” said Mr Foster.
“We have the Great Yorkshire Run, but to take it to Bradford would be fabulous. We will definitely have a close look at Bradford. I love Bradford as a city.”
Morrisons’ group marketing and customer director Nick Collard said: “Nothing is set in stone, but I’d share Brendan’s enthusiasm for Bradford.”
Morrisons is taking over the title sponsorship from Bupa, which has run the events for 22 years. The grocer said it will hold the sponsorship for at least four years.
Part of the plan is to get more women involved in the races, which are the UK’s biggest mass participation running series.
Morrisons will be encouraging its 11 million customers and 120,000 colleagues to take part in the events that range from 5k to the half marathon.
The agreement also includes the Junior and Mini Great Run events.
The sponsorship will start with the Great Winter Run and International Cross Country in Edinburgh today and will cover eight city locations with an initial 12 events.
Morrisons’ chief executive Dalton Philips said: “Over the last 34 years, the Great North Run has become a national institution and now with Great Runs across Britain, we believe it should be supported by a truly British sponsor.
“We have stores in more than 500 communities so we can play a big part in getting more people running with all the benefits that brings.”
Move could help supermarket to reclaim initiative in its Northern heartlands
MORRISONS will be hoping to reclaim the marketing initiative in its Northern heartlands through its new sponsorship of the Great North Run and its affiliated events.
At a time when rival supermarkets are encroaching on its territory, the Bradford-based firm sees this as a great opportunity to display its Northern credentials.
While discounters Aldi and Lidl are keen to open stores across Yorkshire and the North, Morrisons has also had to cope with Danish discounter Lidl setting up its base in Wakefield and choosing Yorkshire as its launching pad. However, with the news that Tesco has cancelled plans to open five new superstores in the region, Morrisons has a chance to steal back some customers.
Tesco has just been told that its debt has been downgraded to “junk” status by ratings agency Moody’s on expectations that profits will be hit by changes in the British grocery market. The move highlights the challenges faced by Tesco and the wider industry.
Morrisons’ sponsorship of the Great Run series makes sense on a number of levels.
The group’s ethos is based on its ‘Market Street’ emphasis on fresh food, which lends itself to healthy living and a better lifestyle, especially at a time when 70 per cent of English adults are overweight or obese.
Like it or not, it’s Northerners who top the weight charts.
The slimmest people live in London, with 57 per cent overweight, while the north-east tops the regional league (68 per cent) and the north-west is just behind (66 per cent), according to Public Health England.
Morrisons will also be able to tap into the growing number of female runners, a key target for the Great Run series.
Morrisons’ arch rival Leeds-based Asda has developed a close relationship with its ‘Asda Mums’ and now Morrisons has a chance to reach out to its female shoppers.