Media Analysis: Runners head for the mainstream

With preparations being finalised for this year's London Marathon, Richard Cann discovers that running magazines, which have the potential to cross over to other sports markets, have a wide lifestyle appeal.

As 45,000 runners eagerly await the starting gun for the London Marathon on 17 April, it appears that running has never been so popular.

A further 78,500 applicants missed out on places for the big race, and with the Great North Run also being forced to adopt a ballot system for entry, the public are slipping into jogging bottoms in their droves.

Despite the recent demise of British Runner magazine, the market remains well covered by the monthlies - Runner's World has a circulation that beats almost all other specialist sports titles, while Running Fitness has a core target of more serious athletes.

Benchmark Sport account manager for PR & marketing, Sarah Kendall, says there is a lot of scope for PROs to target running titles because the activity is relevant to so many people for a variety of purposes.

'Running is a cross-training sport - whether you're a rower or a rugby player, you run,' she says. But she adds that titles need to continue to broaden their focus. 'It can get quite monotonous always to focus on running.'

Practical advice

Running magazines are practical and filled with information about how to train, but Runner's World editor Steven Seaton would like to see PROs pitch more stories that demonstrate the broad penetration of the sport in today's society.

'I've rarely experienced a PR company that gets what we're about,' he says, adding that Runner's World wants mainstream content to reflect a mainstream pastime. He says specialist running-related products such as health supplements are of interest to readers, but as 'the icing rather than the cake'.

'The running titles need to broaden their coverage like men's lifestyle magazines,' counters Nexus Communications MD Alan Twigg. 'A magazine has to hold onto its core values but everyone's out running - from trendy couples in Fulham to serious competitors at clubs, and they should take advantage of that.'

Twigg points to Men's Health as a title that was essentially about bodybuilding but has become more useful for PROs by also including 'everything from recipes and fashion to sex, drugs and rock and roll'.

RUNNER'S WORLD

Editor: Steven Seaton

Contact: rwedit@natmag-rodale.co.uk

Circulation: 77,546 (ABC, 2004)

Define your editorial stance

We're less about hardcore runners and more about health and fitness with an emphasis on running. When we look at the London Marathon, we're looking at the middle of the field, using photography - we're not as interested in who's doing the best time.

How should PROs approach your mag?

Most PROs just say: 'This is what we're pushing, are you interested?' There needs to be an open dialogue where we both get something out of it.

What would you like more of?

We regularly feature celebrities outside sport who run regularly. We need to show readers that running has broad appeal and is not just for people from a small segment of society. We've featured Gordon Ramsay and the Duchess of York - they give our readers a lot of motivation.

Who's on your wish list?

Beyonce, Daniel Day Lewis, Boris Johnson and James Dyson. The best people are the ones you'd least expect, but they have to be really into running.

When do you need to hear from PROs?

We need products at least two months in advance because everything in the magazine is tested.

We'd talk to celebrities within a couple of months of publication, but if Beyonce called we could probably get her out a bit quicker.

RUNNING FITNESS

Editor: Paul Larkins

Contact: rf.ed@kelsey.co.uk

Circulation: 25,000

Who reads the magazine?

If you run, you must have energy and time-management skills, to balance things such as work and family. Our readers tend to be no-nonsense people - if we can say a product works, they're interested.

What about casual runners?

Physically and psychologically, the things you have to do as a casual runner are essentially the same for professionals like Paula Radcliffe.

There is a common ground no matter what level you run at because our bodies all respond to the same things.

Which PROs should contact you?

There are a lot of products related to running, whether they be recovery products, clothing, exercise equipment or MP3 players. PROs are missing a trick if they don't consider running magazines.

Outline some specific opportunities

Our news can include product launches in the front section of the magazine, and we also have specific product review sections. We're interested in people from other sports too, such as football, because cross-training is very important for everyone.

When should PROs contact you?

Generally three months in advance for products. When we have particular themed product reviews - health supplements, exercise equipment etc - there's space allocated, but the earlier the better.

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