Athletic Ventures – a new strategic partnership.

UK Athletics, London Marathon Events, and The Great Run Company have announced a new strategic partnership, an innovative model to deliver major sports events in the UK.  The launch announced it as “the creation of a joint venture, Athletic Ventures, which is set to transform the future and growth of athletics in the UK and deliver major athletics events.” The concept was intended to transform the delivery of athletics events in the UK.

London Marathon Events has delivered the London Marathon for over 40 years, described as “the most popular marathon in the world,” while the GRC’s flagship event is the Great North Run, the biggest half marathon in the world. In addition to that, UKA’s London Diamond League attracted 50,000 spectators last year.  Thus, the partnership was said to bring together the biggest athletics one-day event in the world in, the Diamond League, the biggest half-marathon, and the most famous marathon.  The slogan “playground to podium” was mentioned several times in the briefing.

Athletics Ventures, a new collective to shake up athletics in the UK

 

Athletic Ventures will deliver the 2026 European Athletics Championships in Birmingham and the annual edition of the Diamond League in the UK. It will also lead the potential bidding process for the World Athletics Championships to return to the UK in 2029. The new company will also seek new commercial partners for athletics in the UK, offering opportunities from grassroots activities to national events and the UK athletics teams at major championships in an innovative ‘playground to podium’ sponsorship program.

 Jack Buckner, CEO of UKA, said: “This is a groundbreaking model for the development of athletics and for major sports events in the UK, and we believe our new partnership, which combines the national governing body with the expertise of London Marathon Events and The Great Run Company, will transform the future of athletics in this country.”

L-R, Paul Foster, CEO of The Great Run Company; Nicky Holmes, Commercial Director; Jack Buckner, CEO of UK Athletics; Jeanette Wong, CFO of London Marathon Events,
Hugh Brasher, Event Director, London Marathon Events, photo by Athletic Ventures

Hugh Brasher, Event Director of London Marathon Events, said: “More than four decades ago, my father co-founded the London Marathon, and Paul’s father [Brendon Foster] created the Great North Run. These events have become the world’s most successful marathon and half marathon and inspired millions of people to become active. Combining the sport of athletics, which features the basics of all sports in running, jumping, and throwing, with the greatest road-running events in the world is just the start of this journey. We believe this partnership will, over time, help deliver even more societal change than our combined events have achieved over the last forty years. The entrepreneurial spirit that is at the core of this new partnership has the potential to truly deliver for athletics from the playground to the podium.’’

The Great Run, 2017, photo by Great Run Company

 Paul Foster, CEO of The Great Run Company, said: “The partnership is driven not only by a belief in the sport of athletics but also that there is a real commercial opportunity. We’re bringing together the best event organizers in our sport to create a new template for international events. We combine world-class creative, broadcast, and event operations with focused commercial and entrepreneurial vision to develop a brighter future for athletics. For the first time, commercial organizations will underwrite major events, not the public sector”.

The commercial partners were clear that they were not giving any money to UKA but that together, they hoped to attract sponsors and generate money together for the sport. One must remember that the hugely successful 2023 London Diamond League lost a six-figure sum – due to not having a primary sponsor and no TV channel willing to pay for TV rights.

The London Marathon, photo courtesy of London Marathon Events

Paul Foster for GRC said: “It’s absolutely not a short-term play this summer. We’re not going to roll the dice and change the outcome of the Diamond League into a massively profitable event overnight. But what you’ve got in ourselves and in London is two 40-plus-year-old organizations that aren’t private equity. We’re not looking for a quick buck on this. We’re doing this because we want to build the foundations of the sport back up on a solid basis and commercialize that. In a really successful way that’s built for the long term and for the future”.

It certainly looks like a potential partnership.

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