Comrades Marathon faces tough task after key sponsor pulls out

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Comrades Marathon runners.
Comrades Marathon runners.
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  • The Bonitas Medical Fund has pulled its funding for the Comrades Marathon.
  • The Comrades Marathon Association now has to find a new sponsor in these tough economic times.
  • The 15-year partnership between the two was not renewed, in part because of the pandemic.

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has a tough task ahead to find a new sponsor in these tough economic times after Bonitas Medical Fund pulled the plug on its R8 million-a-year sponsorship of the race.

The two parties confirmed that the 15-year-old partnership will not be renewed when it comes to an end on Monday. Bonitas said it had decided to channel its funds into strategic healthcare and wellness initiatives during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, Comrades also suffered a blow when Old Mutual dumped them, but it was not long before Mr Price came on board as the replacement.

Bonitas became a regular sight not just on race day but throughout the year, at Comrades Marathon qualifying races, roadshows, the Comrades Marathon novice and women’s seminars amongst others.

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On the TV broadcast side, they also sponsored the Bonitas Eye-in-the-Sky helicopter, which provided a birds-eye view and brought a fascinating additional dimension to race day commentary.

Bonitas principal officer Lee Callakoppen said cutting ties with Comrades was not a decision they took lightly.

Business model

"After this long association we are still very invested in the ethos behind the race ... It’s all about celebrating ordinary people doing extraordinary things," Callakoppen said.

"As a leading healthcare provider and a medical aid for South Africa, we have always known the importance of quality healthcare. However, Covid-19 has made this even more so. It has meant us adapting our business model to be more agile to ensure we are providing members the care they need. We have therefore decided to channel our funds into strategic healthcare and wellness initiatives."

CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn said they are saddened at the parting of ways with Bonitas after so many years.

"But CMA is already actively seeking new high-profile sponsors to take up the rights, commencing with what will be our most innovative, inclusive and momentous 2021 Centenary Year celebrations," she said.

"We would like to thank Bonitas for their many years of investment and support. During those 15 years, together we were able to introduce innovative ideas and host informative seminars and workshops to assist runners."

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