The Livestrong Foundation and the Austin Marathon have parted ways, just three years into a planned 10-year partnership.
The entities announced a three-year title sponsorship of the Livestrong Austin Marathon & Half Marathon in June 2010. In December 2011, it was announced that the partnership would be extended until 2020. At the time, race director John Conley said both partners shared the goal of encouraging fitness and healthy lifestyles, adding that the collaboration between the two brought energy to the event.
The separation comes six months after Lance Armstrong, who created the foundation, was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and resigned as chairman of the Austin-based non-profit, which works to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and survivors. In a January interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted to doping during his cycling career.
Marathon organizers haven’t announced a new title sponsor. Instead of a single sponsor, the race might partner with multiple presenting sponsors, with each focusing on a different aspect of the race, said Jeff Hahn, an Austin Marathon spokesman.
The Austin Marathon has been without a title sponsor before. It started in 1991 as the Motorola Marathon, morphing into the Freescale Austin Marathon in 2005 and the AT&T Marathon in 2007 before dropping a title sponsor altogether in 2009 and 2010. The first running of the Livestrong Austin Marathon was in 2011.
“We’ve assessed where we are and feel good about what we’ve accomplished,” Hahn said. “At the same time, both of us think we can grow our brands and invest in our brands to yield even more results, but those paths aren’t necessarily together in the form of a title sponsorship.”
Hahn declined to say how much sponsorship of the 26.2-mile marathon and 13.1-mile half marathon cost Livestrong, citing confidentiality agreements.
Entrant numbers are growing in the half marathon, but have leveled off in the marathon. Combined, the Livestrong Austin Marathon & Half Marathon drew about 18,000 participants this year, down from a peak of about 19,000 in 2011.
“That means we have to switch gears, and we believe we need to really market ourselves as a tourist destination first, leveraging the Austin brand, and a running destination second,” Hahn said. “Customers are telling us ‘We want to run a race in a cool city with a great experience.’ ”
Representatives of the organizations said the agreement was flexible and could be concluded whenever both sides agreed their goals had been met.
The Livestrong Foundation gained visibility and raised almost $1 million via the Austin Marathon in the past three years through its Team Livestrong program, said Katherine McLane, spokeswoman for the Livestrong Foundation. Athletes in the program raised funds for Livestrong while running the race. Team Livestrong will continue to participate in the marathon, McLane said.
Livestrong may announce sponsorship of different local athletic events in the future, she added.