London Classics: when marketing works, thank you

Chief Correspondent

Congratulations to London Marathon Events

When the journey is far more important than the destination…
…for me at least.

Who is the bright spark in the London Marathon Events office, who came up with the idea of the London Classics? I sincerely hope you have since gained promotion and/or a significant bonus.

Announced only in July this year (HERE), the London Classics concept was a remarkably simple – yet effective – addition to the schedule at last Saturday’s Swim Serpentine event in Hyde Park.

London Marathon Events organise events beyond just their eponymous title, including two other mass participation, endurance focussed, London-based events – Prudential RideLondon and Swim Serpentine.

Both the London Marathon and RideLondon are massively over-subscribed every year, with 30,000+ entrants making it to the start – and likely similar (or more) frustrated that they can’t secure a place.

In only its second year, Swim Serpentine, had neither similar numbers or a massive ‘sell out’ problem. How do you take the demand from the first two events and leverage that to assist and make the third event more popular? Queue the addition of ‘London Classics’:

A simple concept and a MASSIVE medal at the end for those that do. I’m reliably informed from those that have weighed it (and Twitter suggests many have…), that it is not far short of half a kilogram.

I’ll be honest, when the press release first arrived I was briefly cynical. About 30 minutes later I realised, “that’s pretty clever, actually.” An hour later I had paid my money and signed up.

Did I ‘need’ a medal? No. Did I believe that this was, per the event marketing, “one of the world’s great sporting challenges”? No! Did it get me off of my backside, back into the pool and make me fitter and feel better again? Absolutely it did. And for that, thank you.

I’ll be honest, initially I felt pretty ‘guilty’. Clearly, this (among other things), is brilliant marketing, and – knowingly – I was giving in to it. I even chatted about it to a friend of mine who works in the sports marketing industry who said: “Don’t feel guilty – that’s what great marketing does.” She was right.

I wasn’t the only one. There were many hundreds of M-Dot rucksacks, Outlaw hoodies and Challenge Family t-shirts wandering around Hyde Park last week as many a triathlete – a natural market for this event – were similarly drawn to Hyde Park. And probably also thinking, “that’s damn heavy!”, when they got their post-swim medal around their neck after their two-miles in The Serpentine.

In truth, I didn’t actually enjoy the event itself! I didn’t swim well, I struggled with the numbers of swimmers in the water and ended up being kicked and hit far too many times to make the experience a pleasurable one.

Despite that – genuinely – I’d like to say a huge thank you to London Marathon Events. I’d not been in the pool for well over a year. I’d lost motivation for swimming and couldn’t really see that it was going to come back any time soon. London Classics came along at the right time to act as an appropriate carrot/stick, and it worked. I was in the pool almost every day from the announcement until event day. I went from truly struggling to complete 1km in a session, to structured sessions to a series of 1500m TT efforts which saw big improvements every time. More importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed the process and committed to it, and for me that was by far the biggest memory of this event.

Will I be back? Well, having completed the swim and got the medal, probably not. Along with 568 others, I’m now listed on a ‘Hall of Fame‘ apparently, so box ticked on that one. All that said, I would recommend it.

Will I be back to the pool? Of course, I was back in the pool the very next day…


Et ego Londinium vici

(I too have conquered London...)

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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