So many marathons, so much for doing the same thing


So apparently marathons have become the in thing, the next buzz project for marketers in Zimbabwe! After coming across the CBZ marathon trending on Twitter, we couldn’t help but come to the realization that this is probably the 10th marathon call we had come across so far this year! and we are only in February. As analysts observing from afar, it is within our self-appointed rights and prerogative to probe, question and dissect this pertinent issue that has seemingly gathered pace lately. Our inquisition is thus premised on the following;

  1. Why have local brands suddenly become marathon (health and fitness) champions?
  2. Who is owning this space? Who is the thought leader?
  3. Is there a strategic fit with some of the brands who are organizing these marathons?
  4. Are local brands going all out or merely scratching the surface or basically copying and pasting?


Have we all suddenly become health champions?

The notion of brands championing health and fitness consumers is not just noble but has become almost a moral obligation given the topical issues around this subject. Given this, we applaud local brands for supporting and advancing such societal causes. Internationally renowned brands have for years been strong advocates of health and fitness and closer to home, a brand like Discovery springs to mind (by the way they have just launched a running world cup). Great work by local brands in championing health and fitness!


Who is owning this space?

Our next point of inquisition pertains to thought leadership in the health and fitness space, who owns this space? Who is the thought leader? Who has the highest share of TOMA? With so many brands championing health and fitness, there’s now a scramble for attention and fight for turf in this space. This is one of the adverse effects of supporting an ideal for which a brand does not believe in at the core. Ordinarily, brands in the health sector namely insurance or fitness related companies are supposed to be the thought leaders because of the strategic fit with their brands, take a classic example Nike whose founders were all runners themselves. However, in Zimbabwe, it remains to be seen who is the thought leader, the go to brand for health and fitness. Admittedly, Cimas has made great strides in emerging as the thought leader as they went to the extent of designing a product iGo package to promote health and fitness.


Strategic fit with company objectives?

Not every cause is worth supporting, ideally brands need to identify and support a cause that is consistent with their company core values, ideals and beliefs. Take for example a company like Delta that has programs against binge drinking, environmental friendliness etc these are causes that are in sync with their nature of business and thus supporting them becomes a natural obligation. However, some of our local brands that are pouring thousands into marathons do not appear to have a sync, strategic fit or long time held belief in health and fitness. We assume they probably saw a marathon advert and decided oh, we need to have our own marathon! Without mentioning any particular names, we remain unconvinced by some local brands that have joined the marathon bandwagon.


Who is going all out?

Consistent with aforementioned assertions on thought leadership begs the question, who is going nine yards in health and fitness? Which brand has fully exhausted this space in terms of visibility, programs, products and demonstrable strategic intent? We therefore pose this strategic question, are local marketers serious or fully believe in what they are doing? Is this a cause that is at the heart of the organization or merely a copycat strategy? For brands that do not have a strategic fit with health and fitness why are they merely scrapping the surface? Are they not other causes which they can support with a better fit with their brands or business model? Our proposition is that brands that believe in health and fitness should to some reasonable extent go full throttle in this space and this starts with the internal employees, how is health and fitness ingrained in the culture of the business? What internal fitness programs have been put in place? How is the business promoting employee wellness and fitness before external customers? An honest response to some of these questions should lay bare the intentions of indulging in these marathons.


In conclusion, championing health and fitness is an incredible cause by brands but it should not start and end with marathons. Indulging only in the latter is nothing but scrapping the surface, piecemeal and will not yield the equity that we need. Local brands should take a cue from what other brands across these shores are doing and design programs and activities that derive value, promote stickiness and endear them to the masses. By the way, we love marathons and have nothing against brands doing marathons but it seems like every other brand is doing it without any brand purpose attached to it. There are plenty other causes which brands can support. Below is a list of some of the brands that have or are involved in health and fitness;

  • Nyaradzo
  • Econet
  • CBZ
  • Old Mutual
  • Lake Harvest
  • PPC
  • EcoSure
  • Tanganda
  • Spar Zimbabwe
  • Zimnat
  • OK Zimbabwe
  • First Mutual
  • Schweppes (Bonaqua)
  • Art Corp (Exide)
  • Ernst and Young


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