Boston Marathon expo attracts fitness, running enthusiasts

Does a running expo seem out of the question for a fitness equipment or accessory company? Well, think again. The expo for the Boston Marathon will see some 22,000 runners walking its halls...
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Does a running expo seem out of the question for a fitness equipment or accessory company? Well, think again. The expo for the Boston Marathon will see some 22,000 runners walking its halls, especially since they must maneuver the aisles so they can pick up their numbers, shirts and info bags. Add to that masses of area runners, as well as the family and friends of the runners who often tag along -- and you have two days of halls packed with fitness enthusiasts.

On hand this year were all of the running-oriented footwear and apparel companies. It's a must-attend for Nike, Reebok, Asics, adidas, New Balance, Saucony, Brooks and the like. Their booths were jammed with special events such as poster-signings by marathon celebrities. But even more attention-grabbing are the special gimmicks that feature mid-pack runners. adidas had a wall with every name of every runner with a sign saying, "Find yourself." And they did: Eyes were glued to the wall. Families were huddled up next to mommy's name smiling and pointing at it for the camera.

Hind made its first appearance in many years at the expo, tucking itself away into Saucony's booth with a few clothing basics. Brian Enge, Hind boss who was incognito in the booth wearing basic gray shirt and shorts, told SNEWS it was something that came about partly because of the company's move in January to re-join Saucony at its headquarters just north of Boston. "This would never have happened had we still been in Boulder," Enge said. Hind will be at four running expos this year -- Boston, Chicago, New York and Chicago's recent Shamrock Shuffle race.

Others sighted were John Jacobs, founding brother of Life is Good, in a corner booth busily selling the company's signature tees with the funny face called "Jake." In the middle of this month's marathon mania, he said the company is moving its design offices smack dab into the heart of Boston, across from the Hynes Convention Center. Ativa, the new women's catalog by Road Runner Sports, actually had a booth with gear and although a cataloger, looked like a true brand to passers-by.

Also, food companies like Clif Bar, PowerBar and Balance Bar were in attendance, as well as drinks like Ultima and Gatorade -- since runners are into food and drink. Gear companies like Timex and Polar didn't miss a beat in being represented either.

Running apparel company Sub 4 had folks in the aisles in front of the booth playing on the current popular theme with the come-on: "Sub 4 here … made in America." Not sure if that call after passers-by helped much really.

Stuck away in a private room in a side hall was "miadidas" -- sort of a create-your-own-shoe program that was quietly debuted at the Chicago Marathon last October. The program is on tour to various marathons and races. More than just a custom appearance with a few changes like mid-sole choice, miadidas actually allows runners to stand on sensors that measure the foot, and asks questions about the thickness of socks preferred -- then a shoe is actually made personally for each runner's specs. The tag line is "mi fit, mi performance, mi design." The process isn't a quick one, taking 30 minutes with a trained adidas staff member. Shoes are delivered to you three weeks later.

SNEWS View: We are surprised that equipment and accessory companies haven't picked up the direct-to-consumer appeal and branding available at these large expos. These are serious workout enthusiasts who are willing to spend money to stay in shape -- indoor and out. We will bet that many have some sort of workout area at home -- or want one or want to upgrade. Stability balls, treadmills, ellipticals and weight gloves are all items that these folks would pay attention to. No, they may not buy one of these there, but it would foster consumer brand awareness. A few brochures and a fun come-on or give-away of some sort would sweeten the attraction even more.

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