With its distinctive red, white and blue color scheme and bright red "M" located within an irregular hexagon, the Marathon brand name appears at gas stations throughout the Midwest and southeastern United States. With stations in 18 states, Marathon ranked in the top 10 for number of gas stations as of 2009. A publicly owned company, Marathon provides opportunities for local ownership of gas stations while operating corporate stations under a different name.
Marathon Oil Corporation traces its beginnings to the Ohio Oil Company, founded in 1887 in northwest Ohio, the leading producer of oil at that time. In 1930, Ohio Oil purchased Transcontinental Oil Company, acquiring with it the rights to the Marathon product name. The name refers to the battle at Marathon, Greece, in 490 B.C. that is remembered in the race by the same moniker. On its 75th anniversary in 1962, Ohio Oil changed its name to the Marathon Oil Company. From 1982 to 2001, Marathon was owned by and became part of U.S. Steel. In 2002, the Marathon Oil Corporation became an independent publicly traded company.
As of 2009 almost 5,100 gas stations sold Marathon gas under the Marathon name. These stations are owned and operated by local business owners. On its website, Marathon states that since 2004 more than 750 local gas stations have switched from other brands to Marathon. An article dated March 4, 2006, in knoxnews.com about local gas stations switching to Marathon details the appeal of the Marathon brand as an American company. A station owner in West Knoxville, Tennessee, advertised the switch with a banner stating "American-owned Marathon."
Marathon actively seeks out local ownership as a means of expanding its branded name. Rather than create new gas stations, Marathon promotes conversion from other brand names. As part of its effort Marathon lists 10 reasons to convert on its website. The first reason parallels the reasons cited in Tennessee: an American company that is environmentally and ethically responsible. The red, white and blue color scheme along with the slogan "Fueling the American Spirit" contribute to that reason. Other reasons include the value from Marathon's website, its advertising, the recognized brand name and company credit card.
Speedway, a wholly owned subsidiary of Marathon Oil Corporation, operates approximately 1,350 convenience stores. The stores are owned and operated by the corporation, selling Marathon gas under the Speedway name. They are Marathon gas stations in the sense the corporation owns them. For consumers, the stations represent Speedway gas.