How was the NYC marathon conceived, and why does it give the Big Apple its happiest and unifying day of the year:
The New York City Marathon is hailed as one of the Greatest Race on Planet Earth. The short races, like 100 to 10,000 meters are sports events—marathon is a unifying force. The marathon races have a vision and they create a unique connectivity within the people of cross-sections of the society. The NYCM founder Fred Lebow was a visionary who foresaw the great commercial potentialities of this event, where the numbers of participants are in many thousands. In any race, the ultimate winner is only one individual, but the large numbers of participants donning colorful attires have the satisfaction that they have participated in the marathon. The participants of the NYCM have the special reason to be proud of.
The expression “Big Apple” is as mysterious as the popularity of the marathon. It is linked to the Depression-era of the 1930s. The side-walk apple vendors are credited with popularizing this expression. A popular dance of the 1930s was also known as the “Big Apple.” A regular column in the Morning Telegraph titled, “Around the Big Apple” was liked by the readers. Once “Big Apple” became popular and achieved the brand status, the marketing world realized that it had an opportunity to cash on. An avalanche of “Big Apples” arrived in the market, like buttons, bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets, shopping bags, ties, lapel pins, ashtrays, tie tacks, T-shirts etc. This logo proved to be the golden asset for the marathon organizer Fred Lebow, who visualized its immense commercial value, and he was absolutely right in his assessment. He believed, “In running it doesn’t matter if you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or in the last. You can say, ‘I finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”
Ron Rubin, the author of this book, is Professor of political science at Borough of Manhattan Community College. This book has united Americans of all categories and classes transcending the party politics of the democratic country of USA.
Apply `power`, the central concept of political science, to Lebow’s role in: mass marketing, capturing the keys to the city, squeezing money from sponsors, devising gimmicks for the marathon, manipulating the media, and assembling an international cast of runners.
“Anything for a T-Shirt,” is not yet another book related to sports events; it is part of the history of New York, and USA at large. They say, what you do is important; but how you do what you do, is more important. To a sportsperson health is the precious commodity of life. Lebow”s final and decisive battle was with the dreaded disease-cancer! Marketing strategies were at the infancy in the 1970s and Lebow did not take any professional marketing course, to convert one of the greatest sports events into an astonishing marketing feat. Marketing experts raised their hats in appreciation. In the College of self-education, Lebow’s mind was his Principal; his initiative, the Professors; his hard work the tutors! He was a man to decide and act; start and finish! Lebow had a big dream and he had big plans to fulfill it. To achieve success, working hard is not enough-one needs to work intelligently! NYC marathon was a small-time local event. Today it is an event known all over the world. Lebow is a native of Romania; he immigrated to New York in 1949 and began to run by joining New York Road Runners. In 1969, he became the club President. Now he had power plus ambition which was a grand combination. Though not a competitive runner, he had the capacity and desire to inspire the common man. His ambition was to take the marathon out of Central Park, the 800-acre park in Manhattan, to the city streets and make it the all-city event. The race now involves the five boroughs. The subject-wise arrangements of the chapters and topics covered by Ron Rubin gives fair indication of the marketing strategies adopted by Lebow to build up the NYC marathon in to an event demanding the international attention and reputation. He has been rightly described as a Showman, besides a sportsperson. Though not sportsperson with great personal credentials, he is responsible for encouraging and grooming marathon runners of outstanding merit. The important chapters are, From Arad to Central Park, Framing a Five-Borough Party, King of New York for a Day “Running” the Show, Unschooled Mass Marketing, Wrestling the Keys to the City, Squeezing Money from Sponsors, Manipulating the Media, Shrewdly Assembling His International Entourage of Runners, Amassing a Crew to Help The Race to the Finish and finally and unfortunately, The Race against the Cancer! He ran the last mile, as a brain cancer patient. His indomitable spirit triumphed over the physical ailment. Indeed so—‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!’ “To those who knew him, Lebow could be charming, pushy, manipulative, loveable, inspiring, and hotheaded…. Lebow never married or had children, but he loved and nurtured the marathon like it was his child.” (Barnes & …)
To Lebow, marathon was mission plus ‘commission’! (Profits) He paid equal importance to the commercial angle of arranging the event of gigantic proportions. He worked without intermission on the race day—from the beginning to the finish; he was there at the starting line, made sure that the race went smoothly, and he was the first at the finish line to congratulate the runners. He made everybody feel the winner! For every participant, the finish line was an emotional climax.
His exceptional ability to convince the sponsors was a marvel. He did not just appeal for donations; he convinced them by proper presentation of facts and figures. He quoted $75,000 for the honor of providing the pace vehicles for the male and female leaders. When the offer was turned down, the counter proposal that he made was an example of perfect marketing strategy. He offered to pay them $10,000 to appoint an independent market analyst, as for the benefit the company will derive of this exposure, of which Lebow would take 10%. He hoped to net $ 100,000 thus! The company got the message and gave him $50,000 and the use of a Buick for one year!
Discuss the influence of the power of Lebow’s spirit in enabling him to complete his marathon creation as a cancer survivor:
They say, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Fred Lebow belongs to the second category. He translated his dream into a reality. He converted the marathon race which covered 26.2 mile course in to a mass movement and now about half a million Americans run the marathons. His marketing wizardry has practical lessons for the top marketing managers and strategists. He converted this otherwise expensive event, from the budget point of view, in to a popular culture, which brought competition and joy to the people. His greatest personal victory was when he raced through the marathon that he had created when he suffered from the great personal tragedy—he was diagnosed that he had brain cancer. To quote a wise saying again—‘Life is to be lived in is trials and tribulations; its duty and beauty.’ Lebow experienced all these stages of life. The tribulations arrived at the fag end of his career/life. The five-borough race in 1992 was his last. Two years later, he lost the battle for life with brain cancer. “Fred Lebow was a dreamer…the kind of dreamer who pursued his dream and made it a reality. And today, more than thirty years later, the world is still reaping the rewards of his vision and hard work…. Fred Lebow’s life was [truly] a story just waiting–and deserving–to be told.” (Rubin, 2004…Preface) Of the 69 marathons, he ran only once!
This is perhaps the best book that introduces and inspires the reader about the marathon.
One feels marathon race is part of one’s life, once you go through the contents of the book. “For me, running is a lifestyle and an art…” said Lebow. He developed the culture of marathon. He converted a sports event into a cultural and social saga and people looked forward and participated in it with extraordinary enthusiasm. This book, “….T-Shirt” is no ordinary shirt. Below that shirt one can hear the beats of the robust heart of Lebow!
Rubin, Ron:Book:Anything For A T-shirt: Fred Lebow And The New York City Marathon, The World’s Greatest Footrace (Sports and Entertainment)
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Syracuse University Press (October 31, 2004)
Barnes & Noble.com – Anything for a T …Anything for a T-Shirt: Fred Lebow and the New York City Marathon…
search.barnesandnoble.com/Anything-for-a-T-Shirt/Ron-Rubin/p/9780815608066 – 42k – Cached – Retrieved on November 18, 2008