As the impending Olympics ignite fervor across the global marathon circuit, the 2023 Chicago Marathon found itself basking in the shimmer of monumental success. Kenyan athlete Kelvin Kiptum's spectacular performance, obliterating world records, cast a notable spotlight on the event. Nonetheless, Michael Johnson, the US track and field luminary, expressed stark criticism regarding the event's promotional efforts.
Johnson, an iconic figure in sprinting, took his grievances to social media, questioning the marketing direction adopted for the Chicago Marathon. His stance suggests that current promotional strategies underscore transient moments of glory, such as world records, potentially eclipsing the sustaining essence of the sport itself.
Engaging directly with a tweet from The Olympic Games, Johnson cautioned, “Marathons are riding a wave of world record excitement that will probably continue the next couple years. But eventually, it’ll stop. Best to keep competition at the center of the narrative, and the records as a bonus.” The eight-time world champion emphasized the imperative to enshrine the sport's competitive spirit over individual milestones.
Marathons are riding a wave of world record excitement that will probably continue the next couple years. But eventually it’ll stop. Best to keep competition at the center of the narrative, and the records as a bonus. https://t.co/BG4L5sgfJF— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) October 9, 2023
Johnson Challenges Promotional Strategies
Johnson’s criticism extends beyond the Chicago Marathon, drawing upon similar grievances aired regarding the 2023 Eugene Diamond League's promotion. His fundamental argument revolves around the necessity of promotional strategies to not just cater to existing enthusiasts but to strategically broaden the spectator base. He has often attributed the successes of such events to the athletes' star power rather than the orchestration of the organizers.
In a previous bout of critique against World Athletics regarding the 2023 Prefontaine Classic, Johnson stressed that notable viewership was not a triumph of organizational acumen, but a testament to the athletes' draw. By backing his assertions with data and sustained critique, he prompts a question that now hovers in the athletics community: Will organizers adapt their promotional methodologies in consideration of these critiques ahead of the Paris Olympics?
As the Olympics inch closer, every 290 days edging us nearer, the athletics world now keenly observes. Whether Johnson’s candid reflections will influence a reevaluation of promotional strategies in the sport’s global presentation remains to be seen. But the resonance of his words, stark against the backdrop of Kiptum's triumph, kindles a necessary dialogue about sustainable promotion in athletics.