Kroger in, Martin’s out for Monument Ave. 10k sponsorship

Bobby Ukrop, president and CEO of Ukrop's Homestyle Foods. (Michael Schwartz)

Bobby Ukrop, president and CEO of Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods. (Michael Schwartz)

A taste of Richmond’s grocery wars has spilled over into the area’s biggest running race.

Kroger has slid into the presenting sponsor slot for the Monument Avenue 10k, replacing rival Martin’s as the latter decreases its presence locally after selling many of its Richmond stores to Publix.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, does not affect the title sponsorship held by Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods, an arrangement that traces its roots back to Ukrop’s supermarkets.

The Ukrop’s name has been part of the event’s title since its inception in 2000. That was a time when Ukrop’s was still a supermarket brand. The Homestyle Foods business was spun out of the grocery chain as a result of it being acquired by Martin’s in 2010. Martin’s took over the presenting sponsorship of the race that same year.

Long story short: Kroger seems to be pleased to wrest some exposure of its own from its grocer peers.

“Let me start by saying, at last,” Kroger spokesperson Anne Jenkins said at a Monday press conference announcing the arrangement. “We’ve long wanted to be a part of this event.”

Sports Backers, the local nonprofit that puts on the race, wouldn’t comment as to why the presenting sponsor slot came open. Sponsorship director Will Dixon said Kroger was the only potential sponsor the organization had substantial conversations with when the Martin’s slot came open.

The Monument Avenue 10k had 2,500 participants its first year. It’s expecting 30,000 runners in its next installment in April 2017, and has grown into what the organization says is the fourth largest 10k in the U.S.

The 10k is Sports Backers’ biggest event in terms of participants. It organizes more than a dozen races and events in Richmond each year, including the Anthem Richmond Marathon and Dominion Riverrock.

Run by executive director Jon Lugbill, the nonprofit brought in $7.32 million in revenue for the year that ended June 30, 2015, according to its most recent financials on That total includes $1.65 million in sponsorship revenue.

Also on hand at Monday’s announcement was Bobby Ukrop, one of the founding board members of Sports Backers and CEO of Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods.

He said the company is in the midst of a plan to roll out more its prepared food products to more grocery stores next year as the company will be freed from an exclusivity agreement it signed with Martin’s as part of the acquisition in 2010. That agreement required Ukrop’s branded foods to only be sold in Martin’s stores.

That agreement did not include Ukrop’s popular White House Rolls, which are sold at stores in 31 states by grocers such as Kroger, Wegmans, Fresh Market, military commissaries and elsewhere.

Bobby Ukrop said the company is now working out the details for putting more of its products in Kroger, Publix and elsewhere.

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