The Economic Impact of the Access Lagos City Marathon

In 2016, Access Bank partnered with the Lagos State Government to host the inaugural edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon. At inception, the goal of this partnership was to provide strategic support to the country’s sport industry and promote a healthy and active lifestyle among citizens through fitness and exercise. Thanks to brilliant campaign activities around the theme ‘Running from the Old to the New’, the marathon garnered the interest of athletes and observers from around the world, causing an influx of thousands. The 2016 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon had 50,000 registered participants, and was ranked 2nd in Africa, after the Cape Town Marathon by the, and was ranked 71 amongst over 1,000 international marathons globally.
The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, in particular, has empowered a number of people in the hospitality industry, including food and drink vendors, fashion designers, advertisers, communication agencies and experts, technical officers, and volunteers that were all engaged from the planning stage to the completion of the marathon. In Nigeria, tourists especially love “African souvenirs”, many of which are made available along the routes of the marathon and off-site. By reviewing the activities of foreign marathon participants, we are bound to see significant economic benefits and international recognition at the conclusion of the 2020 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon.
Running by Numbers
In 2017, there were 12,306 marathons held globally, double the numbers from 2011. Running has grown by 57% over the past 10 years, with an increasing number of people beginning to realize the importance of exercising. Among those driving the growth are corporate executives and the middle-class elite who wish to stay healthy and relieve stress. People are travelling across the globe to run marathons. The percentage of people travelling to a different country for a race has increased significantly between 1994 and 2018. For marathons, there has been an increase from 0.2% to 3.5%; for half marathons, numbers of foreign participants have grown from 0.1% to 1.9%; and for 10Ks there was an increase from 0.2% to 1.4%.
In 2019, 120,000 people registered to run the 42km path from the National Stadium, Surulere to Eko Atlantic. Over the years, we have watched the marathon grow, pulling in more sponsors and participants, and with them, more observers and enthusiasts.
It’s Not Just About the Sport
Beyond the fit and active lifestyle running promotes, marathons have become sport tourism events. People now participate in marathons for other reasons which include; self-esteem booster, self-actualization, self-therapy, and even socialization. Marathons are not only beneficial to the participants but also to the host cities. It is for this reason that more cities are launching races to promote tourism and boost their image.
The 2018 edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon hosted 35 gold label athletes, 12 silver and 13 bronze label athletes, including 120 international and 150 Nigerian elite athletes. These numbers do not take into account the tourists who were also present as observers and supporters of the racers. Needless to say, the route was excellently planned to show off some of the city’s finest landmarks, including Eko Atlantic which only grows in splendour as the construction of the megacity continues. Taking into consideration the transportation, hotels, dining, social activities, post-run sightseeing, family and friends that are likely to accompany the runners, and the size of some marathons (tens of thousands or more), it’s an easy guess that marathons cause a notable boost to the host city’s tourism industry. It follows reason that a large influx of tourists will result in considerable benefits for the host city and economy as a whole.
Races are good for the Economy
Economic impact studies have shown that there are positive economic effects for the host city of a marathon. According to a study performed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Regional Economics Applications Laboratory, the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon generated “$253.49 million in total business activity to the Chicago economy,” which is “an equivalent of 1,742 full-time jobs and $85.94 million worth of wages and salary income.”
How does this happen? It’s simple, really. Tourists want to explore and get as much out of a city as they can, leaving room for brands to create packages that these tourists will find attractive. A good example would be travel agencies creating packages specifically for the marathon period, or caterers putting together experience nights where tourists can experience the food culture of the host city. Sport-related brands have also seen a spike in business, increased sales, and top of mind awareness by pushing out content in line with the marathon’s theme of the year.
By hosting a marathon widely watched across the continent and the world, Lagos has consistently informed investors, tourists, and foreign governments that the state is ready for business. While recognising the effort and investment required in hosting such an event, it also further stimulates future tourist visits, not just during the event. For example, the inevitable economic benefit for many countries that have hosted the Olympic Games include the post-Olympic effect of an influx in international tourist arrivals. Additionally, event publicity also increases interest and the demand for local products and services from vendors, fashion designers, advertisers, travel agencies and experts, even when consumers are yet to visit the area. 
Different marathons attract runners who spend money on consumables and sports equipment. International participants also spend money on flights and accommodation, while local runners (who make up to 90 per cent of the runners) also spend money on consumables and every other opportunity in order to fully experience the marathon.
While speaking about the marathon, the Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc., Herbert Wigwe said, “As one of the leading banks in Nigeria and indeed Africa, it is imperative for us to support the economic and social development of the communities in which we operate. Hence, we have sponsored the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon for five years to make Lagos State more attractive to tourists and foreign investors alike. We have also used this platform as an avenue to create more jobs and opportunities to thousands in the state.”
Economic impact doesn’t just end after the racers have crossed the finish line, these people return to their home countries and share their experiences. This is likely the most plausible explanation why the marathon has enjoyed exponential growth. As the marathon gets bigger every year, pulling more participants, sponsors, and vendors, we can only expect the city’s economy to continue to benefit from the attention.