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May 24th race: What’s in a name?

The renaming of the Bermuda Day Half Marathon Derby has stirred controversy, with some opposing any corporate identity being placed on the 104-year-old road race.

At the same time others say if the price of organising the showpiece race is to allow the lead sponsor to have its name co-joined in the title, then so be it. That a proposed name change can stir so much debate reflects the passion and sentiment many Bermudians feel for the road race.

Today, almost every successful sporting event has a sponsor’s name attached to its title, including famous races such as the ING New York Marathon and the Virgin London Marathon.

For a sponsor, the exposure and goodwill generated from being visibly associated with a popular community event can be priceless, while event organisers benefit from solid funding that helps them put on and improve their event.

Appleby has sponsored the race since 2005. It has been a successful partnership, boosting the race and ensuring many Island charities benefit from funds raised by the event. Earlier this week the organisers announced the race would be known as the Appleby Half Marathon Derby.

Such a sponsorship link-up is today regarded as the norm. But there are exceptions, and for Bermuda the question is should the Bermuda Day race continue to be one of those exceptions?

Around the world certain events with a steeped history have no sponsor’s name attached. The Wimbledon Championships and the Tour de France are examples. But should Bermuda’s May 24 race remain among that select grouping?

It is one of a rare few annual road races in the world to have been held more than 100 times. From its grass roots origins, the Derby has enjoyed a quirky history with varying routes and distances, its ‘Island residents only’ restriction, and the retiring of race bib No. 1 in honour of multi-time winner ‘Sir’ Stanley Burgess.

While there have been a few missteps along the way, the race committees through the years have done a sterling job preserving this signature event. It is one of Bermuda’s unique treasures, enjoyed and passed on from generation to generation and it rightly holds a special place in the hearts of Bermudians. That the race will now have main sponsor’s name Appleby affixed to its title has caused some consternation, particularly over the initial loss of the word Bermuda from the title. On Thursday, the race committee reacted and retitled the event the Appleby Bermuda Half Marathon Derby.

Whether that will be accepted as a compromise, or whether the public preference is for the race to be remain unbridled by a corporate identity, remains to be seen.

Photo by Akil Simmons Just 13 miles to go: A May 24 Derby field of almost 800 wait for the start of the 2012 race.

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Published April 13, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 12, 2013 at 8:27 pm)

May 24th race: What’s in a name?

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