Interest in this Friday’s Standard Charter Dubai Marathon continues to mount, though it has little to do with competition. Instead, the focus is almost entirely centered on one man, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, whose stated goal is to break the marathon world record set in Berlin 2014 by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at 2:02:57. While the marathon record is almost always the object at the annual BMW Berlin Marathon, where the last six men’s records have been run, the sport rarely finds athletes willing to boldly predict their intentions with a gaudy Trump-like flourish. Not sure if it’s chicken or egg, whether the unpredictability of the marathon itself or the nature of the men and women who ply their trade in that game tend to deliver an endless series of “Only God knows” answers to “how do you think you’ll do?” questions. (Maybe it’s just bad questions, too).
In any case, building fan interest under such circumstances has become increasingly difficult in a more crowded sports landscape that features more and more charismatic characters with Facebook Live accounts, tattoo tapestries, and multi-million dollar prize purses. Even when the top first prize in marathoning is Dubai’s $200,000, it doesn’t break through to the general public as having relative importance in the greater realm of pro sports. And if you don’t have an Olympic gold medal or a World Championship on the line, what else do you have to generate interest other than money?
But fan interest, like the stock market, is an iffy proposition. Hard to read, hard to presume or presage. Yet there are some who are better than others at gauging what might pique the public interest.
“We like making fights people are interested in,” UFC president Dana White told Colin Cowherd on his Friday, Jan. 13 show in response to the public interest in a possible Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor match between the undefeated boxer and the current mixed martial arts fan fave. “We like putting on entertainment events, whatever. As long as the people who buy the pay-per-view or bought the tickets are excited about what happened that night, how do you lose?”
That’s the attitude a showman has, the desire to please the paying customer. The question I have is where are those characters in the running game? Because there is a big difference between a meet director and a meet promoter. (more…)