Paying 100 euros to suffer for 42kms : The economics of marathon running.

Part taking in a marathon is a big deal, and a big financial deal. I recently ran my first marathon in Paris and was lucky enough that my registration was sponsored by a banana producer (true story) and Bonjour Darling, so I did not have to worry about the fees. However, through the process of training for and running this race, I really wondered: would I ever pay this amount of money to take part in a race? and Where on earth does this money go?

Photo credits: Paris Marathon 2017

Most big marathons cost around 100euros (e.g. Paris), some up to 200 euros (e.g. NYC); so there is a real business going on.

Where does the money go?

The truth is that registration fees actually do not even cover what a runner costs. A study done by the Washington Post  showed that with a $99 entry fee, you can roughly cover race operations ($36 for toilets, chip timing, rubbish…), security ($34) and entertainment and advertising ($34). This leaves the cost of staff, vehicles, utilities, race t-shirts and medals, food and aid stations, registration systems, etc. All of this can add up to over $50, and this extra cost is is usually covered by sponsors.

Ok, so in fact, there is a rationale to this crazy price. But still…

…if it is so expensive, why do people register?

There are many reasons why people want to run an official race (because, really, you don’t need an official event to run 42km if you really want to). For me, it was a personal challenge, after a few years of running and 3 half-marathons under my belt, I wanted to take it to the next level. However, I was also anxious about my ability to make it. With a set race day, all my friends and family knowing about it and a preparation programme to stick to, I knew it would be much harder to bail out and that I would make it despite the fear.

For others, it is for fun, or to challenge themselves (a friend of mine was running his 16th marathon!). There is a form of self-presentation as well: becoming a marathon runner is quite something and the whole glitter around an official event makes it all the more appealing. Beyond those reasons, running a marathon is also a way to prove something to yourself and others, to test your body’s ability and fitness, and to defeat age or illness, or even to raise awareness for a cause.

Would I pay for it in the future?

It’s important to know that, beyond the event registration fees, running a marathon also incurs a lot of other “hidden costs”: getting the right gear and equipment, eating proper, travelling to the even location and staying there…Even if I did not pay registration this time, I must have spent a solid 350 euros on that race. I think I might do it again, and pay the fees this time; because I understand it is not a ripoff and I know the thrill you get doing it is totally worth it. Sure you can run a marathon on your own, but you won’t have the fancy medal, the aid stations, the music along the road or the people cheering you all along.

All in all, it comes down to the price of a nice little holiday, assorted with leg pain for a solid 3 days afterwards…but also a lot of fun!

Photo credits: Paris Marathon 2017

Is marketing dead? Two trends turning marketing thinking up side down.

The traditional marketing “segmentation-targeting-positioning” approach requires you to try and find a homogenous customer segment with specific needs, and serve it with a product that answers that need. Some people advocate that this approach is dead, stupid and outdated. I don’t think so: it is just that it has slowly been robbed from its utility.

The reasons for this are twofold: product overload & technology dominance

“With markets overloaded with products, opportunities to truly create disruptive innovation and new products are scarcer”

The reality is that most marketers in their daily jobs are dealing with existing products, not truly inventing new ones. Let’s admit it, consumers are overloaded with products as they are.


Truly engaging in new product creation is more and more rare, and the best marketers can usually do now, is bring them tiny incremental innovations, to try and sell more of them to increasingly bored consumers.

Think you are going to go and work at Unilever and revolutionize the global ice cream industry? (dear students, I am talking to you) Think twice. The segmentation-targeting positioning framework is obsolete because we don’t truly innovate anymore.

Another reason why we don’t innovate so much in marketing anymore is because more and more product innovations are concentrated in the technology/digital areas. And believe it or not, technology products are not so much ideated by marketers, as they are by IT guys or engineers. Technology specialists gain more and more marketing skills and use their own product development tools.

“Tech specialists are taking marketers’ jobs

Yes, IT guys like them. Source: The IT Crowd.
Yes, IT guys like them. Source: The IT Crowd.

As a result: a) adjust your expectations if you are going into marketing and want to do product development and b) if you don’t want to adjust your expectations, get into technology…or social marketing. With the world turning its head upside down an markets as well as economic and political climates being more and more uncertain, there is dire need to design solutions with social and societal impact (but even then, you will probably need an IT guy on board!)


From research/school work to infographics

As visualisation becomes the best way to get attention, being able to turn complex academic work (research, school projects, dissertations) into infographics is becoming a valuable skill.

bw-data-templateYet, demystifying the content of heavy academic work is a tough task. As authors, we are immersed into our work, which took us months or years to craft, get out there and, ultimately, in the best cases, publish. Once the whole hassle of fighting for this article (collecting data, writing up, submitting, revising, answering comments, editing, etc.) is over, all you want to do is relax and see the citations come in.

“Synthesizing long research projects into a small visual is a challenging task for academics.”

However, digital dissemination of research content is increasingly useful in attracting citations. This is evidenced by the growing popularity of research blogs edited by individual researchers, research groups, and universities, schools and research organisms. Why does everyone bother to simplify their academic work into blogs and infographics, if this is not worth it?

“Crafting an infographic from a piece of research has been a challenging, yet very rewarding effort that helped increase its visibility of my work on social media, a way to get more citations in the future.”

Yes, it was challenging, because it was like trying to fit an elephant in a match box.

After doing it a few times, here are a my top tips on how to create a good infographic out of your research project

  1. Create a story.
  2. Think of the big idea.
  3. Think of your audience and what they expect from an infographic.
  4. Select a tool to do it.  Canva, Venngage, Piktochart, etc.
  5. Visual, always visual. (I love The Nounproject for instance).

To have the detail of these 5 tips, read my full article on the JMM blog.

More infographics to follow!

The Instagram fitfam project #contribute

Do these pictures seem familiar? You’ve seen them on dozens of health and fitness accounts on Instagram…the so called #fitfam.

Source: @blogilates Instagram account

A student of mine, Maureen, had the great idea to do her dissertation on this community and debunk the real effect of the fitfam on consumers attitudes and perceptions. The #fitfam is crazy, annoying, irritating, weird, yet many of us follow these accounts, get inspiration from them and, let’s admit it, secretly like them. 😱 What are the marketing implications of this craze?

If you are on Instagram and follow accounts about fitness, health, workout and other smoothie bowls, take 6 minutes of your time to answer our questionnaire! Not only will you help Maureen graduate but you’ll also take part in one of the first marketing research projects on the topic.


The survey is –> this way (and in English) #thankyouall #biglove 🙂

Weekend in Beijing

After living for 4 months in China, it was high time for me to go and visit Beijing. I took advantage of an impromptu business trip to have an express tour of the capital city.

The week-end kicked-off in a bit of a rush: finish work at 7.30 on Friday night, leave Shanghai at 10.00 and arrive in Beijing by midnight. The next morning, wake up call at 7 am, direction the Great Wall.

Great Wall

The Great Wall (Chang Cheng in Chinese) is this massive and really impressive, 9000 km-long stone wall. We reached it by cable car and then started walking on the wall itself, which is quite a hike! Reaching the highest towers takes a while, and there are quite a few steps to take, but it is really worth the effort, especially with the wonderful weather we were lucky to have.

We visited two spots on the Great Wall: Mutianyu, which is rather touristy, and Huang Hua, which is much quieter and secluded. In Mutianyu, after admiring the view and some intense leg action, we had an amazing time on the slide that took us down the wall. There again, you could see the difference between careless Europeans going down the slide as fast as possible, and respectful (or scared!) Chinese people going as slow as they could. I must confess to slightly bumping into a poor child in front of me…After these emotions, we took it to Huang Hua (Yellow Flower) in the afternoon for a bit of peace and quiet. We fished our own lunch and had it in a little hillside restaurant, with the same wonderful view of the wall.

On the Saturday night, it was the cherry on the cake! Or, rather, the duck on the crepe. As you know, Beijing is known for its “Peking Duck”, and it was a must for us to have it at least once. The cutting ceremonial that goes with it and the wonderful sauces and condiments made for a truly amazing meal.

Tiananmen Square

Forbidden City

On Sunday, we were off to the other key attraction of the city: the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square (above). The Forbidden City was erected in the middle of Beijing, under the Ming and Qing dynasties. At its entrance on Tiananmen Square, the massive portrait of chairman Mao reminds you not to speak too loud around there. We spent a few hours in the beautiful Forbidden City before heading to an area with traditional houses: the Hutongs (below).


We finished the trip with a visit of the very hype and busy area of Sanlitun, and then hopped back on the plane to kick-start a new week of work, super fresh!