Marathon Lessons

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 21, 2011
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Hawaii has a lot to offer the world of business, although there are many people, including those in office in Washington, D.C., who insinuate that Hawaii is not a place to engage in serious business. For that reason I believe people who work in Hawaii’s resort community have developed a unique pitch for doing business here. There are many examples, but a couple have achieved top ratings over the years.

A classic model is the growth and well-being of the Honolulu Marathon. Every year the marketing is escalated to the breaking point, and many companies would be smart to take a page out of the Honolulu Marathon marketing plan. It deserves a name, and I like the term “bundling.”


On the surface, the Honolulu Marathon is a foot race, but it is a dream for tourism. The marathon’s target market the Japanese come in droves to pay to run 26 miles and be awarded a T-shirt! Talk about a low overhead.

This year, 23,000 runners registered for the race, and with all the action leading up to the actual run, it’s expected to bring $110 million to the state’s economy. The top runners take just more than two hours to complete the race, and some runner/walkers take more than nine hours, but it feels good because it is a tangible accomplishment.

The race starts in the dark at Aloha Tower and ends with a beautiful shot of Waikiki Beach in the background. With the exception of the accompanying traffic congestion, there is very little downside to the race, even though the winners are usually from Kenya, Ethiopia or some other faraway land. It all adds to the mystique of running in a marathon, which by the way is usually the last contest at the Olympics. This is not a contest, it’s a dream come true for anyone who has participated and rightfully so, because it takes a lot of preparation to complete the challenge.


What’s interesting is that others in the tourism industry have not followed the example set by Honolulu Marathon’s organizers, who have managed to bundle a foot race with a tourism package that everyone accepts with open arms to make a lot of money for our economy. If people don’t believe that sports tourism is a good deal for Hawaii, then they’d better wake up and smell the facts: Sports in Hawaii is good business for the state’s tourism industry. Maybe they should appoint Honolulu Marathon president and CEO Jim Barahal to the Tourism Authority and use the same bundling to bring other tourism-related events to Hawaii.

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