Case Study

Marine Corps Marathon

Every year, roughly 30,000 athletes lace up their shoes and pin on their racing bibs in our nation’s capital for the Marine Corps Marathon. This Marathon isn’t any ordinary demonstration of athletic achievement—it’s about embodying a shared sacrifice. The community is immediately exposed to this honor at the starting line situated between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, which represents those who are actively protecting the United States and the fallen heroes who put their lives on the line defending it.

The scenic route guides runners along a path of history with monumental views of the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, National World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument, to name a few, before crossing the finish line at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington County, Virginia.

Since its founding in 1975 by Colonel James L. Fowler, the marathon has grown to be the largest marathon in the world that does not award prize money, earning itself the nickname, “The People’s Marathon.”


  • Logo / Identity Design
  • Collateral Development


  • Bright Books Series

Parallel with the marathon’s surging success, the event organizers recognized that it needed to refresh its logo identity to keep pace with its booming reputation. In 2011, the Marine Corps Marathon partnered with Bates Creative to design a logo that would preserve the legacy of the marathon while paving the way for its future.

Designing a Legacy

Bates Creative began the Marine Corps Marathon logo redesign with the goal of modernizing the classic logo that reimagined the iconic “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” photograph. The photo captured the historic moment of six marines raising a U.S. flag at the summit of Mount Suribachi following the U.S. victory of the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II on February 23, 1945.

Bates Creative preserved that forward motion that is captured in the iconic photograph to also resonate with the runners advancing through the marathon’s course. Bates Creative simplified the design with red and black as the primary color palette while leveraging negative space to complete an abstract depiction of the soldiers’ movement in both the photograph and logo.  The name and mileage of the event rests along the angle of the flag for the main logo lockup, but was designed for interchangeable text to feature the name of the event, mileage or year as well.

Bates Creative designed the logo with a bold and structured design that can be immediately recognized on all pieces of event collateral and marketing touchpoints. A year before the debut of the new logo, Bates Creative worked with the Marine Corps Marathon to design the 2011 official print program for the event, titled “Salute.” The program features all need-to-know information about the marathon weekend, including maps that pull from the Marine Corps Marathon branding system, as well as feature stories spotlighting how comedian and actor Drew Carey’s journey to good health and fitness led him to running in the 36th Marine Corps Marathon.

The redesigned logo not only nods to history, but reflects the caliber of the people, event and generational story with each passing marathon.

Bates Creative Group is the perfect partner to take on the multi-tiered challenge of rebranding the Marine Corps Marathon. The updated identity of this great event will celebrate its history as one of the largest and best-organized marathons while also properly representing it as a Marine Corps operation.

Marine Corps Marathon
Press Release