Brooks Shoes Offers Something "Extra" For Upcoming Marathon

I've always had a huge fascination with the marathon. So much so, that in 2004, I decided I had to run New York and, as any good reporter would do,I took notes along the way.

Marathon sponsorships are usually better than others because products are being used. In New York, Barilla is the official sponsor of the marathon and the 7,000 pounds of pasta made at the dinner the night before is Barilla pasta. Gatorade is the official sports drink, so along the way there are 32,040 gallons of Gatorade, 62,370 gallons of Poland Springs, 42,000 Powerbar gel packets and so on.

But I’ve never quite seen a sponsorship that was meant to thank the consumer instead of sample them. Well, that’s what Brooks is doing at the Marine Corps Marathon later this month.

Brooks Lux Porta Potty
Brooks Sports, Inc.
Brooks Lux Porta Potty

Anyone wearing something with the running shoe company’s brand or a Marine Corps marathon item (Brooks is the official licensee of the marathon), gets access to a special tricked out port-a-potty. I spoke with Dave Larson, Brooks’ vice president of marketing, about how he came up with this and what he thinks the response will be. For a brand that’s already No. 2 (behind Asics) in specialty running store market share, I think this is absolutely brilliant.

Brooks Lux Porta Potty
Brooks Sports, Inc.
Brooks Lux Porta Potty

Darren: How’d you come up with the idea?

Larson: Well, I was at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for a Lakers game and it’s of course outrageous to park around there. But for that day, anyone who drove a Toyota to the game got free parking. And I said to myself, that’s pretty cool. Every year, a lot of us at Brooks run the St. Paddy’s Day Dash in Seattle. And you go to the bathroom and it’s just disgusting. You stare down that hole and you say to yourself, “This just isn’t right.” So I thought to myself, what happens if we rewarded runners with a really nice bathroom experience? What happens if we get some really cool toilet and offer people a breath mint?

Darren: How did it get from idea to actually doing it?

Larson: I did some research and I called up this company and this guy said, “You want a Jacuzzi in it?” I mean, they do these amazing ones for movie seats that can cost up to $150,000 if you want.

Darren: So what will people find at the Marine Corps Marathon?

Larson: It’s one Port-A-Potty station with one toilet for the men and one toilet for the women. (Note it looks like the picture except it will be wrapped in “Run Happy” Brooks graphics). It will be set up about a quarter of a mile before the starting line, which is also around where people finish up. There will be somebody dressed up in a tuxedo holding all the accoutrements, with a red carpet and a velvet rope.

Darren: How do you feel about being a pioneer with this idea?

Larson: There’s a lot of parity in marketing these days and it has been a stated goal of ours to be known as the brand that likes to have a little bit of fun and be disruptive. If there’s any brand we’re modeling ourselves after on this front, it’s probably similar to what Mini Cooper has done.

Darren: How have you let runners know about this?

Larson: We did an e-mail blast and it’s on our web site and the race Web site and information about it will also be at the marathon expo.

Again, kudos to Brooks for this one and thinking outside the box by putting people into a more comfortable box.

Questions? Comments?