WASHINGTON – Promoting brand Jamaica to a global audience is a major part of Team Jamaica Bickle's (TJB) mission.
This is no more evident than during the annual Penn Relays, when Franklin Field and the entire city of Philadelphia in the United States are awash in a sea of black, green and gold, as the country's best high school athletes compete for honours against their peers in some 60 countries around in world.
More than 20,000 athletes from the junior high school, high school, college, senior and professional levels, compete at the three-day event, which is the oldest collegiate track meet in America.
TJB, which comprises Jamaicans nationals, is not only an official sponsor of the Penn Relays, but since 1994, has been hosting the local athletes, providing meals, physical therapy, chiropractic and medical services; transportation, and subsidized hotel and air fare.
Teams from other Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, also benefit from the support.
TJB has established a village, which provides a home-away-from-home for the athletes, where they can enjoy scrumptious local cuisine, and receive medical care and physical therapy. The village is adorned with the colors of the flags, and the music, energy and vibe of Jamaica.
Having seized the initiative to host the contingent of Jamaican athletes, the TJB took a number of Jamaican brands on board, introducing them to a whole new market and opportunities. One of the country's leading food companies, GraceKennedy, has not only seized the moment, but has become a major sponsor of the event over the last three years.
Anyone attending the games over the years would not only have seen the athletes competing but also the Jamaican brands prominently showcasing their products to hundreds of thousands in the stands and in television land.
"We saw an opportunity to capitalize on Jamaica's very strong presence here," says Chief Executive Officer and Founder of TJB, Irwine Clare, Sr.
"Jamaican athletes have been competing at Penn since 1964 and our fans are passionate and flock to Philadelphia in the thousands every spring. It would be a missed opportunity to not capitalize on that," he adds.
He says the event is not only used to celebrate the island, its culture and people, "but to derive economic and social benefits from our supreme standing on the global stage".
As the organisation looks to further promote brand Jamaica, it has created a 5-K run, the second staging of which was held earlier today (Oct. 20) at Baisley Park in Queens, New York. It is hoped that the event will become a stable on the road race calendar in the Northeast US.
Partnering with TJB in this year's race were the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB); and the Jamaica Nurses Group of New York, which provided health, wellness and nutritional advice, and blood pressure checks.
Organisers of the annual Reggae Marathon to be held Negril in December, have offered automatic entry to the top male and female in the 5-K race. Jet Blue will provide air transportation, with accommodation by the RIU Hotel.