How Not to Brand Your National Heritage: The Case of the Athens Marathon


I saw the news the other day— exciting stuff. The Greek sports authorities responsible for the Athens Marathon (the real one that started it all a couple thousand years ago) were “entering a new era” and launching a new brand and identity.

Then I clicked the link and saw what they meant by “new identity” and “new era.”

It’s sad when you have something so special and potentially massive in your hands. You own it. It’s yours and the world knows it. And you just let it go.

Welcome to “ATHENS MARATHON. THE AUTHENTIC” the new official name of the race that takes place every October in Greece that follows the exact route from the town of Marathon to Athens. This is the original run that has inspired millions of people around the world with marathon runs in most major cities in hundreds of countries.

This is another example of something Greece owns— and is letting get away from its hands, as a result of a lack of vision and creativity.

First of all… Try using ATHENS MARATHON. THE AUTHENTIC in a sentence or in the case of content creators like me, a headline:




It’s not only bulky and cumbersome. It’s grammatically incorrect. It’s backwards and impossible to use, at least in English.

It’s a classic case of someone trying to hard to make something what it is.

Same thing in this case. Greece doesn’t need to call its marathon “the authentic.” Because it already is. And most of the world knows it. And if they don’t, there is a secondary and subliminal way to let this happen, in a natural course, without pushing it down people’s throat.

A simpler and more “in your face” approach would have been to take the bold step of calling it, simply, The Marathon. Period. With a capital M, it automatically asserts a position of prominence and authority that the Greek authorities were striving for, without sounding like they were trying to hard.

The Marathon.

It’s like the Holocaust (with a capital H). Sorry about the strange comparison, but every person in the world that knows how to read understands that this refers to the event in history when 6 million Jews were exterminated during World War II.

There have been other holocausts (note the small h). In Smyrna in 1922… against the Armenians and Pontian Greeks in 1914… In Rwanda and elsewhere. But there is only ONE Holocaust.

Another example is The Oscars. I know a lot of people named Oscar. I know a lot of restaurants named Oscar. But “The Oscars” is singular and refers to the awards Hollywood bestows upon its filmmaking community. The entire world knows this and it’s been done through years and years of subliminal branding.

The Marathon is a singular word and in a few years’ time could become a household name, like The Holocaust and The Oscars. The definition of “singular” is “being only one of a kind; unique, being beyond what is ordinary or usual, remarkable.”

The Marathon, run on the original course that inspired an entire world to run, is indeed singular.

The Marathon. It’s a unique and one of a kind race, beyond the ordinary and usual. It is indeed remarkable. Sure, there are other marathons. In Chicago, in Boston, in Paris. But there is only one Marathon. Peter Economides made a reference to this years ago in his re-brand Greece presentation that went global and viral and he was actually the first person who got me thinking about the power of The Marathon.

Unfortunately, the organizers didn’t see it as this and came up with an awkward descriptor— and an even worse logo. But that’s for another post.



  1. Excellent post! We have so many treasures that can propel Greece’s brand to new heights–and we continue to take two steps back, I feel.

  2. I’m a creative director in NYC. Very disappointed with the new campaign & logo. I’ve seen some very good design come out of Greece, but not this time. It’s embarrassing…they removed all sense of heritage and made it generic.

  3. elizabeth anninos on

    Its a very bad logo and an even worst title….so many greeks do not like it and have objected to it. I totally agree with the title,’ The Marathon’ its to the point. Thank you for writing this article and do support the page on Facebook that wants the re-design of it…
    that so many are signed.

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