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Ewww: Runners Object to Advertisement on Boston Marathon Medals

April 15 is the third Monday in April, which is the traditional date for the annual Boston Marathon. But something very untraditional will be part of the proceedings this time around, because the marathon medal — given to every runner who finishes the 26.2-mile race — will feature a douchey advertisement for a bank, marking the first time that the medal has been ad-clad.

A lot of runners aren’t happy about that. Reddit threads and social media posts have been rife with negative comments (“Oh cool, I get an ATM card hung around my neck when I finish!”). The blowback got so bad that The New York Times actually wrote an article about it. The piece has lots of quotes from disgruntled runners, the best of which is, “This isn’t a turkey trot.” (In a cowardly move, the medal advertiser declined to comment for that article.)

The Boston Marathon has a lot of prestige, in part because it’s the world’s oldest annual marathon and in part because there’s a high qualifying standard to apply for entry (and even then you’re not guaranteed a spot). Many runners spend years dreaming of running in this event. Imagine doing that, and then finally qualifying for this year’s race, and then finding out that the cherished keepsake of your achievement will be a fucking ad for a fucking bank. It’s really sad and really gross — the latest symptom of a growing cultural illness.

The Boston Marathon used to have a different corporate partner. That company — an insurance brand — had a strong advertising presence in the race but at least left the medals alone. Sigh.

(Big thanks to Chris Weber for bringing this one to my attention.)

Comments (17)

    If runners don’t like it they should decline the medal en masse. It’s really embarrassing.

    As someone who chased the unicorn for years, we are not gonna do that. I have my ad-free medal framed on the wall next to me and while it would be an eyesore to see that giant white banner with a bank ad on it, the medal symbolizes the work we put in to finish.

    But, you are right, it takes us rebelling and rejecting corporate influence to make a change. We just won’t for many reasons.

    “[T]he cherished keepsake of your achievement will be fucking ad for a fucking bank.”

    This is something I’d expect to read in a novel by Orwell, a movie by Spulock, or a screed by Ham Nolan.

    But here we are and it’s in reference to a sporting event.

    Clearly nothing is sacred anymore. I would love it if the finishers, en masse, told the orgainzers of this to just fuck off. But that would undoubtedly punish them far more than it would hurt the orgainzers or their advertisers.

    Clearly nothing is sacred anymore.

    Yeah. But here’s the thing: I don’t think we need to think of anything as “sacred”; we just need to have some reasonable cultural boundaries for where advertising does and doesn’t belong, because at present there’s really no end in sight.

    Obviously, reasonable people can differ regarding where the line should be drawn. But there needs to be *some* line, somewhere.

    I’ll admit to being somewhat hyperbolic with that statement, but the sentiment remains.

    I know you speak about Idiocracy often. I’d also recommend to our readers the Spurlock movie “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” which I was actually introduced to in one of my J-school classes in 2011.

    And on this we agree 100%: ads, in and of themselves, are not the enemy. It’s ads that exist in places where they do not belong (such as a school bus or public building, or a uniform) that are so off-putting and distasteful. We can now check off “ads on a Marathon finishers medal” to that list.

    I have probably a hundred medals from various races. My cherished Boston medal is the only one not kept in a box in my closet. Very few have any advertising from the sponsors and those that do are innocuous. To do this is really disgraceful. Even without the BOA ad at the bottom, these things look cheap, almost like it’s a sticker. I’m so sorry to those of you who have worked so very hard to get there and this will be your reward. One would think that for a $180 registration fee they could afford a nice medal. I will say the 2023 version looks awesome. Wish I had one of those.

    Remember when MLB tried to put Spider-Man ads on the bases?

    I doubt there’s time to re-order however-many-thousand medals they’d need to produce. But if enough people speak up, maybe next year’s will be ad-free.


    Title makes me think you’re grossed out by the runners’ objections to the ad, but I know where I’m at :)

    Imagine dreaming and working your whole life to be a Major League Baseball player, only to get there and have to wear an ad on your jersey.

    Imagine dreaming and working your whole life to be a WNBA or NBA basketball player, only to get there and have to wear an ad on your jersey.

    Poo on it all.

    Maybe having the Boston Marathon medal with an ad is similar to if there were ads on FIFA World Cup futbol tops… regular pro soccer has them, but not the primo event!

    Cheapens what is supposedly the premier marathon in the world. Clearly, everything is for sale. “Your Ad Here” are the only words we live by.

    They could have put the ad on the ribbon instead of the medal itself. This is a bush league move.

    I feel that if a runner in any marathon has an issue with the ad on a finisher medal and that it would potentially ruin your experience of a truly fantastic experience that truly so few people actually have the chance to complete, then please step aside / withdraw / or do not run and let someone else have your spot.

    There are many people who work very hard to complete this genuine accomplishment off their personal lists (for a variety of reasons) and it is more important to finish ones race than worry about what a “medal” has on it (and I have my B.A.A. 10k from 2023 and dozens others from all over…it’s about the race, not the medal).

    Otherwise, what is happening to the NYC marathon (MTA, look it up), will happen more often and less opportunities will be available.

    We can all agree to disagree, but we can all agree to run! :)

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