Fifth Third Bank lays off River Bank Run director

John Zimmerman
John Zimmerman. (May 15, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Fifth Third Bank is consolidating, the executive in charge of organizing the Fifth Third River Bank Run has lost his job.

John Zimmerman told 24 Hour News 8 that Fifth Third is eliminating regional marketing positions — one of which he holds — and consolidating all marketing to its headquarters in Ohio. As a result, he was laid off, so he’ll no longer be the director for the annual road race.

24 Hour News 8 asked what that means for the River Bank Run — if Zimmerman is leaving the race, is Fifth Third ending its sponsorship of the event?

“I would assume it would continue,” Zimmerman, who was named race director in October 2015, said. “But I don’t know because I’m no longer the race director.”

Zimmerman said it is possible that Fifth Third could pull its sponsorship, but that he would be shocked if it did.

One thing he is sure of is that the race will continue.

“Where would it go?” he said. “For 40 years, it’s been in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s been designed to draw people to downtown and we’ve done that and we’ve done that in a big way.”

Thousands of people showed up to downtown Grand Rapids to participate in the 40th annual River Bank Run on Saturday.

“The run has established itself to the point that it has a life of its own and that’s no reflection on Fifth Third,” said Marty Allen, who was the vice president from Old Kent Bank & Trust before it became Fifth Third Bank.

Allen was the first marketing director for Old Kent Bank.

“It’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t going to be a marketing department here in Grand Rapids and I say that from my own experience,” Allen said. “I think it’s such a valuable part. My only hope is if it happens and it’s going to take calls out of Cincinnati that they have enough wisdom to know that they need to a have a presence here.”

Zimmerman said Fifth Third is still under contract with the West Michigan Whitecaps to sponsor Fifth Third Ballpark for the next four years and just signed a three-year deal with Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for the Summer Concerts series.

Zimmerman is currently job hunting.