Case for a second London Marathon 'stronger than ever', says think tank

But marathon organisers say putting the same event on twice would significantly reduce the fundraising benefits for both

London Marathon (Photograph: Marcin Rogozinski/Alamy)
London Marathon (Photograph: Marcin Rogozinski/Alamy)

The arguments for introducing a second London Marathon are stronger than ever, according to Joe Saxton, co-founder of the charity think tank nfpSynergy.

Last year’s marathon raised a record £66.4m for charities. In a blog on the think tank’s website, Saxton argues that adding a second annual marathon would provide a vital new fundraising opportunity.

NfpSynergy first called for the introduction of a second marathon in a report published in 2007, which said that 79 per cent of charities were in favour of it, but the idea was not taken up by the marathon’s organisers. In fact, Saxton says, they threatened him with legal action for making the suggestion.

The London Marathon had warned Saxton about infringing its trade mark with his suggestions, Third Sector understands.

In the blog, published yesterday, Saxton says: “While the London Marathon weren’t that pleased with our idea, the truth is that the case for a second London marathon is even greater than it was over a decade ago.”

He says the idea is one that charities should support “because we need to work out ways in which we can have new streams of fundraising income which can replace those being lost”.

He adds: “A second marathon in London would contribute towards doing just that.”

First, Saxton says, the overwhelming popularity of the event suggests a second marathon would be a success and would have “enormous” potential to raise more money for good causes.

“The London Marathon is full,” he says in the blog. “It’s oversubscribed many times over. If a profit-making company or a major charity ran the London Marathon, they would have expanded their franchise and started a second marathon in London.”

Similarly, he says, other big-brand long distance or endurance events such as the Great North Run and Race for Life remain very popular, even though other types of fundraising events are oversaturated.

Saxton adds that a second marathon would provide an extra opportunity for charities to connect with donors without having to worry about the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation – new data protection laws introduced in 2018 – because, with marathon fundraising, people ask their friends and family to donate, so charities never have to deal with donors’ data.

“As forms of fundraising dependent on a database decline (telephone fundraising, direct mail, cold mail, direct debits, etc),” Saxton writes, “events which can raise money are needed to replace that lost income.”

Saxton points out that millennial donors are more likely than older generations to want to combine their donations to charity with their everyday and social lives, something the marathon allows for.

The marathon also offers smaller charities the chance to take part in large fundraising events that they would never have the resources to organise by themselves, he says, and they particularly need the help because they “are having a particularly tough time in recent years with tougher and tougher commissioning rules, government austerity and GDPR”.

Nick Bitel, chief executive of London Marathon Events Ltd told Third Sector: "London is one of the busiest cities in the world and there is a limit to the number of events that can be held on closed roads in the capital.

"It is important that there are different types of events staged in London every year - from the Notting Hill Carnival to Pride in London and a range of mass participation sporting events. Whether London’s authorities, residents, businesses and communities would welcome a second marathon is highly debatable."

He also said a second marathon would not necessarily increase the amount of funds raised for charity.

"One of the reasons London is the world’s most successful annual one day fundraising event is the very fact that it is so hard to secure a place in the world’s greatest marathon and charities are therefore able to raise record funds per place," he said. 

"There are many other reasons why the London Marathon is so successful, including the participation of the world’s greatest athletes (who can only complete twice a year and in the autumn they run in one of the other Abbott World Marathon Majors races), the amazing television coverage from the BBC and the impact of the stories of the runners and their causes in this unique setting.

"Even if it was possible to do it, putting the same event on twice in the same city in one year would significantly reduce the impact of both events.”

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