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Great Run Company's incoming chief Mark Hollinshead reveals London ambitions and publishing plans

Three years on from the London 2012 Olympic Games the Great Run Company, formerly Nova International, is looking to make its mark on the Olympic legacy with the launch of the Great Newham London Run at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Sunday 19 July.

Driven by incoming chief executive officer Mark Hollinshead, who joins the Great Run Company from Trinity Mirror, the ambition for the Great Newham London Run is to be the city’s biggest running event by 2020.

“Geographically there was a real gap in our marketplace with London and the south, which is the biggest running market in the UK compared with other levels of participation,” Hollinshead told The Drum.

“We’d been looking for an opportunity in London for some time and when the opportunity to hold a run in Olympic Park came up we grabbed it with both hands. It’s where Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and Jess Ennis-Hill won Gold and we thought the appeal of running at Olympic Park would differentiate our event from all the other events in and around London.”

Poised to take up the role of CEO on 1 July, Hollinshead has sat on the board of the Great Run Company for the past two years working closely with former long-distance runner and company founder, Brendan Foster.

“The time was right to move on from Trinity Mirror,” said Hollinshead of the move. “The interesting thing for me was that the skills were transferable and I could add real value to the team and help drive things forward.

“I have a real passion for sport, which was useful, but in terms of content, audience and commercialisation of assets it’s much the same. It’s a marketing-based role where you have to constantly rejuvenate your product offering to keep it topical and appealing, in the same way you’d have to refresh a print brand to make sure it’s relevant.”

In addition to managing the Great Run Series Hollinshead revealed the company’s plans to launch Great Run Publishing following the “strategic acquisition” of Athletics Weekly, a publication Hollinshead calls the “authoritative bible for athletics in the UK”.

“With Great Run Publishing we’ll be developing GreatRun.org, not just as a promotional platform but as a news platform for endurance running and mass participation sports. And with AthleticsWeekly.com we want to turn that into a global news site for athletics and endurance running in general. We’re keen to drive our digital propositions,” said Hollinshead, pointing to the way the Great Run Company is using “online, content marketing and social media” as examples of this.

Particularly important to the Great Run Company is promoting the message “run better, run together” with not only the Great Newham London Run but also its Great Run Local series and big city Great Runs in cities like Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester and Dublin amongst others, with brand partners such as Puma, Lucozade, Aqua Pura and more pivotal to this.

“All our commercial partnerships are important and we have a range of blue chip partners with Morrisons serving as headline partner for this year’s Great Run Series. It’s important to them that we’re involved in lots of communities around Britain as that’s what they’re about as a brand.

“For us the Great Run Series is about personal achievement, raising money for charities and personal improvement, it really sits right at the heart of all that so for a brand to be associated with or aligned with a series such as ours it needs to fit with our overall strategy and objectives. What brand wouldn’t be interested in getting people fit, healthy and active?” he asks.

Of July’s event – which includes a 10K run, a family run and a quarter marathon relay – Hollinshead believes it has the potential to become bigger not only bigger than the London Marathon but also the company’s own Great North Run which boasts over 50,000 participants.

“We want people to bring the whole family down on 19 July, that’s why we have the mini run and the junior run. We feel we’ve pitched it right with the 10K, a marathon, of course, is the ultimate challenge but if you can crack a 10K, well, that’s the first step.”

The Drum is a media partner to the Morrisons Great Newham London Run in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday 19 July. To take part in the 10K event or the Marathon Team Relay, visit www.greatrun.org