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Baltimore Running Festival signs new sponsors

Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the Elkridge company behind the 13th annual Baltimore Running Festival, didn’t miss a beat after Under Armour, the event’s title sponsor for the past decade, pulled out for this year, leaving a significant hole in Corrigan’s budget.

Runners get going at the start of the 2012 Baltimore Marathon. Race organizers are still working to fill a shortfall in sponsorship funding since Under Armour announced it would no longer be the event’s primary sponsor. (Submitted photo)

President and Executive Director Lee Corrigan announced Under Armour’s decision late last month, about eight weeks before the Oct. 12 event, which includes the Baltimore Marathon and several other races. He’s since been busy, meeting with other potential supporters for this year and looking for a replacement title sponsor for next year. He’s making strides: Three new companies signed on as name sponsors for specific segments of the 2013 event.

ShopRite, which has 11 supermarkets in Maryland, will sponsor the 5K race, Corrigan said Thursday. ShopRite’s support will enable organizers to give a medal to each 5K finisher first time, an uncommon perk for a race of that distance.

Transamerica Corp. a financial institution headquartered in Baltimore, will sponsor the Kids Fun Run, while Oklahoma City-based DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse will sponsor the Celebration Village, a public area by the finish line featuring food and drinks, games and live music.

Under Armour will still provide official race T-shirts to participants, and about 500 of its employees will volunteer at water stations, but executives decided to use the sponsorship dollars to support other worthwhile recipients in Baltimore instead, which Corrigan called “very admirable.”

“If we had to go out and buy those shirts, it would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

Corrigan expects to generate about $800,000 in sponsorship revenue for this year’s event, which will cost about $2 million to produce.

Still, losing the title sponsorship — which Corrigan said could be worth as much as $500,000 — could have devastated his bottom line this year. But thanks to aggressive efforts to find new partners, a little renegotiating with vendors and some “smart choices,” Corrigan expects to turn a profit again.

“I’m getting close on a couple good-sized chunks that will completely close the gap,” Corrigan said. “The event is very healthy. It’s always been profitable, since day one.”

As of Thursday, the festival was at 86 percent registered runner capacity, according to its website.

Corrigan also eliminated the “elite runner purse” — a pool of money used to attract about 40 top competitors from around the world to the marathon. Because he’s not spending about $150,000 to subsidize those runners’ races, “that means the winner will probably be a gym teacher from Dulaney,” he said laughing.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield will again sponsor the half marathon, and Legg Mason Inc. will sponsor the team relay. Both companies have been involved since the event’s early years.