SM PIER — Over the weekend the Santa Monica Pier’s Ferris wheel was transformed into a giant — and illegal — advertisement for Asics shoes, catching City Hall officials off guard.

The “supergraphic” went up on Saturday, a day before the L.A. Marathon brought tens of thousands of runners and spectators to Ocean Avenue near the pier for the race’s finish. It was taken down Monday.

Ben Franz-Knight, the executive director of the Pier Restoration Corp., said the advertising deal between the shoe company and Pacific Park, which operates the Ferris wheel, was reached without his knowledge.

Santa Monica’s strict sign ordinance bars companies from displaying such large-scale ads, said Steve Traeger, City Hall’s principal urban designer.

“The city as a whole is fairly conservative with respect to signage,” he said. “To reduce clutter and visual noise we encourage small, tasteful signage.”

He said the planning department will send Pacific Park a letter explaining the violation but won’t assess a fine because the ad has already been taken down.

“In general the city is not punitive in these sorts of matters.”

But officials are still looking into the violation and could take further action, Traeger said.

Franz-Knight said the ad was “certainly larger than we’ve seen before” on the pier and “raised some issues” that City Hall will be discussing with the amusement park operator.

While the ad was the first of its kind to be displayed on the pier, Franz-Knight said Pacific Park has used the Ferris wheel in more subtle promotions, for example by illuminating the ride with pink lights during a concert on the pier sponsored by Victoria’s Secret.

Through a spokesman, Pacific Park declined to make a representative available for an interview about the ad. The spokesman also declined to specify how much Asics paid for the sign.

In a statement released Tuesday, Pacific Park said the shoe ad “saluted all the participants and supporters with a one-of-a-kind, nine-story tall display featuring both male and female marathoners.”

Asics also “graciously provided free Ferris wheel rides to all participants” on Sunday, the release said.

Councilman Richard Bloom said the ad was “certainly, from my perspective, not what we have in mind for the pier.”

Meanwhile Dave Klewan, the L.A. Marathon’s head of corporate partnerships, was irked for much different reasons. One of the marathon’s main sponsors, rival shoe company K-Swiss, wasn’t given the option of buying the super-sized Ferris wheel ad.

“I don’t know why they didn’t reach out to us,” he said.

But the fact that the marathon prompted a company to sponsor such an unusual advertisement, he said, means the event is growing in stature.

“We’re flattered by it, to be quite honest. It kind of is a sign that the marathon has arrived.”

nickt@www.smdp.com

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