Subaru of America, Inc. has long sponsored flower shows, lifestyle festivals, ski resorts and other types of properties that resonate with its target audience.

Now the auto manufacturer is expanding its portfolio to connect with a growing segment of customers: runners.

Subaru this year has come on board as the presenting sponsor of the Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathon Series. The company kicked off the sponsorship last weekend at the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon and will wrap the program in October with California’s Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon.

Also this fall, Subaru in October will launch a new partnership with the Men’s Health Urbanathlon obstacle course series. The series will take place in Chicago, New York City and San Francisco.

The deals follow Subaru’s two-year-old presenting sponsorship of the 10-stop Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud and Obstacle Series.

The automaker is placing more focus on endurance sports as a result of its growing customer base, said Todd Lawrence, Subaru’s promotions and sponsorship manager.

“Everything we sponsor is based on supporting the activities and passions of Subaru owners. Our customer base is growing, and running consistently comes up as an activity that our owners enjoy and participate in.”

Like its sponsorship of the Merrell Down and Dirty Series, Subaru was drawn to the Destination Races series due to the uniqueness of the property. The events take place in scenic wine regions ranging from California’s Napa Valley to Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

“Subaru owners are experience seekers, and we wanted to do something more than a traditional running event,” said Lawrence.

The automaker activates the events by offering VIP parking and brunch for Subaru owners and up to three guests. “We’ll reward owners and hopefully introduce new prospects to the brand.”

Subaru also is activating the tie with a consumer sweepstakes that dangles a trip to the Oct. 27 Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon. The company is touting the promotion through email blasts, ads in Drive magazine and other customer communication channels.

In addition to signing new deals with endurance sports events, Subaru over the past few years has tweaked its activation strategy. The company’s new objective: enhancing the consumer experience.

“We try to ask the question ‘If we weren’t at an event the following year, would participants miss us?’ We want that answer to be yes,” said Lawrence.

The strategy has seen Subaru move away from static on-site displays in favor of programs that engage consumers in an authentic, relevant way. For example, the company activates the Merrell Down & Dirty Series with the post-race human car wash. 

“Participants get dirty at the event, so the human car wash is a way for people to clean up and cool off. We play music, people dance and have fun. It’s a great way for people to interact with our brand.”

Subaru also tries to leverage ties with other sponsors. The company activated its presenting sponsorship of the May 18-20 Dominion Riverrock with a promotion with two other like-minded sponsors: Ruffwear dog apparel and Zuke’s dog treats. Consumers that visited all three sponsor booths received a passport redeemable for a water bottle, dog bowl and dog treats.

In a different twist, Subaru leverages the Merrell Down & Dirty Series by offering a free pair of Merrell shoes to consumers that take a test drive at a local dealership.  

Subaru also sponsors flower and garden shows, mountain biking events, winter sports and other types of activities that resonate with its customer base. Ties include the National Ski Patrol, Northwest Flower & Garden Show and the Subaru Freesking World Tour.