THE organisers of the world’s biggest half-marathon have come a long way since their humble team of six 25 years ago.
Newcastle firm Nova was established in 1988 by Olympian Brendan Foster, and runs events across the country including the North East’s own Great North Run.
Its ability to attract both participants and sponsors enabled its annual turnover to hop, skip and jump to around £16m last year, and it has opened additional offices in London and Manchester.
Eric Wilkins, Nova’s chief executive, said the company now employs 60 people and is looking to grow its profile abroad.
He said: “This year we’ve taken over two events from Glasgow Life, which is an arm of Glasgow City Council. This includes the Great Scottish Run and the women’s 10k.
“We moved into open water swimming five years ago and we now have the biggest portfolio of open water swimming events in the UK. The Great North Swim in Windermere has proved a resounding success.
“So too, has our recently-launched closed-road cycle race in Manchester, which drew 7,000 cyclists last year and became the largest of its kind in the UK.
“Of course, the Great North Run is hugely important, not only to us but the whole region. It’s about making each event more famous, guaranteeing the quality of the athletes taking part, televising it well and ensuring the participant is at the forefront of how we plan it.
“We’re talking about 56,000 runners taking part for 56,000 different reasons. That’s what makes the event so special.
“It’s a challenge to improve the Great North Run but we have to maintain our high standards, in terms of attracting the world’s best athletes, constantly improving our broadcasting offering and creating an even better experience on the course.
“We’re looking at various ways of moving the market on, such as our Great City Games which showcases athletics in a new format, and to a new audience.
“By taking athletics out of the stadium and staging the event on an innovative and specially constructed city centre track, the general public are able to view the world’s best athletes just a few feet away.
“Currently it can be in seen in Manchester during the Bupa Great Manchester Run weekend and in Newcastle during the Bupa Great North Run weekend.
“This is an innovative concept with popularity among athletes and spectators growing fast.”
Nova also runs an independent sports production company called filmNova, which provides footage of its own events and created a promotional video which contributed to the success of London’s bid for the World Athletics Championships in 2017.
The company’s decision to open a London office has allowed it to build and maintain relationships with sponsors that are crucial to its business, as well as broadcasters such as the BBC.
Wilkins said: “We have an event in Dublin but we work predominantly in the UK. We would like to do more events overseas but I think it’s more important at this stage to form local partnerships in the country’s major cities.
“We run a business and of course we have to make money to operate, but more importantly we’re here to engage the community, generate local economic impact and promote health and fitness to the masses.”