Havana: five centuries of running

Havana: five centuries of running

2019 marks the 500th anniversary of the Cuban capital, and this brings even more brilliance to the Marabana, the marathon that, for more than three decades, have been receiving runners from all over the world. To celebrate the jubilee, Havana’s marathon trains hard, eager to set a new record.
Beach, marathon or Havana? All this and more is what Marabana Cuba 2019 offers you. Marabana is always a new adventure, with the passage of thousands of athletes through the five-hundred-year-old “Ciudad Maravilla”. Every year, for more than 30 years, the competition exceeds its own goals. In the city there is an unequaled atmosphere because several marathons are run in one: sports, friendship and others not so obvious for runners: logistics, organizational and communicational that, as a consecrated Kenyan or Ethiopian athlete, serene, devours kilometers every day until the big day arrives again. This is the moment we are right now. When the starting bell is heard, a whole new test begins again, filled with the expectation of the satisfaction of runners who gather around for this unique experience.
As his life seems like a continuous run, Carlos Gattorno, the director of the Marabana-MaraCuba project since its creation, knows well the training routine that he needs to follow throughout the year to reach his goal. EBM chatted with him for a while and he was especially motivated preparing the details for Marabana 2019, a process that began in November 2018, just after the end of last year’s edition.
“The running events impose logistical challenges that have to do with the satisfaction of the runner and the efficiency with which we are able to meet their expectations. An event with 1496 foreigners, as we had in 2018, with more than 6000 runners in total, needs a broad organizational deployment, not only from the institutions, sponsors and the city agencies, but from each and every one of those involved “, he points out.
When, in 2018, Marabana signed a contract with the multinational Dentsu Aegis Network, a change was proposed in the strategy to place the event at higher international levels. It is no longer just a matter of meeting the objectives set out in stages, but of strictly satisfying new parameters embodied in the document.
“We want each member of the team to strictly comply with the letter of the contract and that takes a lot of dedication. In an event like this you are working for a whole year. During this period, several qualifying races have been held in different parts of the country and the training and improvement of the work of the volunteers continues, an indispensable element “, he adds.
About the first results of this strategic partnership with DAN, Gattorno assures: “Being associated with one of the most important companies in the world is already a success. You cannot think about the parties, you have to think about the whole, which is what defines and maintains a direct relationship with world-class professionals. It takes learning. The results have motivated the improvement, a more professional work of those who intervene in this process. The internationalization of the event is another result, reflected in important contracts with sports newspapers in Europe that have made it possible to publicize the event, as well as the professional work in social networks to give adequate information, with quality, for the runners, taking their needs into account”.
Jesús García, CEO of the Iberia Division of MKTG, the Life Style Marketing and sports division of the DAN group, had said during the presentation of the joint project in 2018 that «The objective is to internationalize the race to bring many more runners and turn Marabana into a great brand; Let it be a motivation to come and run here, for the excellence of the city and of Cuba as a country”.
Thousands of kilometers later, no one doubts it. In fact, as recognized by Gattorno, the contract allows Marabana to be present in some 153 countries and in the most important Running Fairs worldwide.

From Madrid to Barcelona
The Marathon of Madrid Running Fair in 2018 was an important experience for the Marabana project. It was the first time, says Gattorno, in which the Havana marathon had its own space, not only as a participant but also as the center of an attractive advertising campaign. The Cuban promoters, led by Gattorno, arrived at the Barcelona Half Marathon, with 19,000 runners last February, better prepared to use the space and attract the attention of potential participants.
“The main element is in the chance to talk and make yourself known among runners from more than 100 countries. The first thing they say is: “if they are here, that is something”, because these are events of the highest level. To see Marabana there guarantees that people can see the web page and then ask for organizational details of the race”.
“The potentially attracted runner visits the web page, checks the route, the refreshment points, the interesting places of the city and then has the possibility to clarify doubts: temperature, medical services, number of ambulances and refreshment points, nutritional guideline to consume according to the technical criteria, type of water that is offered and what are its properties… so the runner begins to see the details of his/her participation, which means there is interest, “he says.
For Carlos Gattorno, learning is a permanent process. The answers to the questions must be wide and complete, capable to satisfy the interlocutor. It is a journey that aims to make more international runners fall in love for Havana, so, like in 2018, Marabana will be in the internationally known fairs as Stockholm, Chicago, Paris, Vancouver…

Changes for the better
Working with professionals with extensive international experience, such as those of the Dentsu Group, led Marabana to adjustments that already give their first results.
“We receive constant information that allows us to evaluate changes. After the exchanges it was determined we would begin to receive the inscriptions not in April, as was usually done, but before. We started in December and already have (closing April 4) 166 registered runners from 32 countries. We know that we have 60 international marathon runners. The entire database of Cuban runners is ready, which means saving time in the future. Working from the trend we have full knowledge of the needs we will have in November. In these events you have to be prepared to solve the things that are going to be presented”, he says.
Everything, in the end, also serves for another differentiating element of the Havana marathon: teamwork with the sponsors. Since 2016, Marabana talks with the companies and forms with them options to improve the race and obtain a greater visibility of brands, which offers the event a special color.
Gattorno knows the key to success: It is not the accumulation of means that you have to promote yourself; no, it is to negotiate the interests of each party and achieve beneficial results for all. What does the event need? That’s where a negotiator like EBM Marketing Solutions plays a decisive role, with 14 years of work in Cuba. Since 2018, EBM has become the representative of the Dentsu Aegis Network, which is responsible, among other functions, for the sponsorship packages tailored to meet the needs of Marabana”.
The experiences, he explains, are satisfactory: We must ensure that each of the sponsors feels part of the team, integrated into this big family. An example of integration is undoubtedly that they include teams that participate in the popular race, as is the case with Unilever, which means that you sow a seed that feeds back and that the workers themselves make the event their own. Much has been written about the phenomenon of sponsorship and the formulas to achieve efficiency, but one of the fundamental things is the level of awareness of each one of the sponsors and that they feel important, satisfied for having achieved the objectives.

Marabana in the 500th
“In 2019, Marabana has the special motivation of being celebrated in the context of the 500th anniversary of the city”, says the manager with a special sparkle in his eyes. Gattorno knows that Havana is a beautiful city and that having it as a diligent companion and literally rendered at your feet is a privilege.
Like Eusebio Leal – the historian converted, after a touch of love, in another emblem of his town -, thousands of friends from all over the world have “walked Havana” to the race. It is not by chance that they repeat it every year. The organizing team cannot help but feel proud and committed to answer the growing interest for each edition.
For the director of Marabana it is important to respect the values of the city, much more when the event treasures the Havana Giraldilla, the highest recognition of the Provincial Assembly of People’s Power. Running in it, with it, for it, in 2019 is also a way to celebrate, between challenges and beautiful sensations, five centuries of history that have gone, as they say, running. «This is a wonderful city to run. Everyone knows it», says proudly.
Running a marathon means pleasure with effort. Every day there is something to do; one does not rest when has the dare to exceed yourself for 42 kilometers and 195 meters. Runner in his own way, Carlos Gattorno is also in love. As it was possible to see on the starting line, during the dialogue with EBM, he breathes deeply between pauses and repeats again and again the words work, training, team… with his people from Marabana. It is obvious that, until Sunday November 10, none of them wants this flirtatious city to rest without any gift.

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