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London Marathon to explore other broadcasting options

by John Saunders
14th Oct 21 11:47 am

The BBC has long held the primary position for broadcasting the London Marathon. But it has recently been revealed that the organisers of the street race are busy talking to other broadcasters.

The loss of the rights to broadcasting the London Marathon would be another tough blow for the BBC’s sporting portfolio, but the London Marathon must aim to increase its profile and boost revenues to maintain its reputation as one of the world’s premier marathon races.

How the London Marathon became big business

The London Marathon has been run since 1981 and it is now a massive business operation having been sponsored by a range of companies such as Gillette, Mars, ADT, Nutrasweet and Flora. Virgin Money have been sponsoring the London Marathon since 2010, although next year will mark the arrival of Tata Consultancy Services the brand new corporate sponsor.

In addition to this, there have been numerous branding partnerships with companies ranging from New Balance and Lucozade to Abbott Laboratories and Fuller’s Brewery all being keen to get involved. As such, it’s the race’s coverage on television networks around the world that have helped it become such an attractive option for sponsorship deals. Plus the race also raises countless millions for a variety of charities and good causes.

Recently, the London Marathon event director, Hugh Brasher, has said he was willing to host talks with other terrestrial TV stations to see what they had to offer.  Brasher pointed out that it is the world’s most popular marathon and its television coverage does a huge amount to publicise London as a major tourist attraction. With nearly half a million people applying for last year’s race, it seems that the London Marathon is heading for bigger things, and its television coverage must be part of that plan.

Another big loss for the BBC

If the BBC were to lose the rights to broadcast the London Marathon it would be another devastating blow to the public broadcaster. The BBC’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics was much less expansive than it normally is for such a premier sporting occasion. Plus recent years have seen the BBC lose the rights to show things like The Masters golf tournament, and it was even outbid by Channel 4 to cover Emma Raducanu’s triumph at the US Open tennis competition.

As such, the BBC is having to fight hard to ensure that it can still cover other landmark UK sporting events such as the FA Cup and the Grand National. While serious horse racing fans can go to this site to find bookmakers with odds for the Grand National and much more, for casual horse racing fans, its coverage on the BBC is something of a British institution.

The BBC has had a 40-year partnership with the London Marathon, and its current contract has just run out after originally being signed in 2018. While there is no denying the BBC’s commitment to covering the London Marathon, the race’s organisers have stressed that they are keen to open up the sporting event to as many new kinds of communities as possible.

However, there are already serious talks underway to try and ensure that the London Marathon stays on the BBC. A variety of big name British athletes as well as some MPs have already voiced their protest to shift the big race away from the national broadcaster. Politicians have even gone as far as mentioning the ‘moral duty’ to feature the London Marathon on the BBC. All of which shows just how important this street race has become in its 40 year history.


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