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Eric Peterson, Published June 05 2013

Forum Communications to be primary media sponsor of Fargo Marathon

FARGO – The Fargo Marathon has changed its primary media sponsor.

Forum Communications Co. reached an agreement with the marathon’s race committee Wednesday to become the primary media sponsor for next year’s event.

“The beauty of what’s happening here with Forum Communications is that it’s local,” said Mark Knutson, marathon race director.

The deal is valued at around $20,000 in advertising tradeouts with Forum Communications, which is now “the exclusive media sponsor in terms of print and television,” Knutson said. Forum Communications owns WDAY-TV and The Forum newspaper.

“The Forum Communications team is proud to partner with the Fargo Marathon in its 10th anniversary,” said Bill Marcil Jr., company executive vice president, chief operating officer and publisher of The Forum. “More than promote an event, we are really excited for the opportunity to support the mission that it stands for: to inspire a healthier community.”

Valley News Live had been the primary media sponsor for marathon events during its first nine years and had its name attached to the half-marathon.

Valley News Live announced on its website Tuesday that it was ending its primary sponsorship with the marathon, citing changes in the marathon’s organizational structure.

“There hasn’t been any organizational structure change at the Fargo Marathon,” Knutson said. “We’re doing exactly what we’ve done with the race for the last however-many years.”

Wendy Bernier, promotions director for Valley News Live, wrote a letter to the Fargo Marathon Race Committee. A portion of the statement read: “Due to changes in the marathon’s organization structure, the value of our continued participation is less apparent.”

“We’re really struggling with that comment,” Knutson said.

When reached Wednesday, Bernier didn’t want to comment beyond what was already stated in the open letter.

Valley News Live General Manager Jim Wareham said the decision to end sponsorship with the half-marathon was Bernier’s decision. Wareham added that managers supported her decision.

Another portion of the letter read: “To make a relationship work, there has to be a level of appreciation and gratitude between both parties. We have been a strong partner from the beginning, exceeding our sponsorship commitment and doing what we can to help it grow and make it the world-class event it is today.”

Knutson had a different take.

“We agreed to disagree and we’re grateful for what they’ve done in the past,” Knutson said. “While we have been very appreciative of what KVLY has done … we did feel that the promotion of it was down this year. That was a concern of ours.”

Prior to this year’s Fargo Marathon, Valley News Live officials asked Knutson to not allow a reporter from WDAY-TV in the media car that follows the full marathon.

WDAY-TV Sports Director Dom Izzo was allowed in the lead car.

“They were very frustrated by that,” Knutson said of Valley News Live. “The pace car to me needs to be filled up with as many media outlets as it possibly can.”

Forum sports writer Jeff Kolpack, Valley News Live Sports Director Jamal Spencer and KFGO’s Mike McFeely were also in the media car.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com