Sponsoring Races: a PR approach

I’m running the Black Squirrel 5K on Saturday in Kent, Ohio. More info about the race can be found here.

As I prepare for the race, I started thinking about the companies and organizations that sponsor races, whether they are 5K’s, 10K’s, full marathons or half’s. Not only do main company’s sponsor full races, but think of all the gift bags and free stuff (YES!) that you get post race most time.

Cleveland Marathon 2010

Cleveland Marathon 2010

I’ve received everything from free T-shirts and ID tags, to free four packs of Muscle Milk, water bottles and free food samples. A lot of time coupons are often stuffed into these “runners swag bag” as one race I ran in June called it.

What are some of the best, worse and even weirdest things you’ve gotten for free after running a race?

As I was saying, why do companies and organizations choose to sponsor races and give out free things?

Of course the most obvious reason – it get’s the company’s name out there. It’s all about the prospect to sell more products. For giving out free things, there’s hopefully a return in getting new customers and sales. Companies sponsor races out of advertising budgets because that’s just what it is, advertising to potential consumers.

Companies want you to sponsor them in the best possible light – I think there is a certain special relationship between sponsors and runners because runners are so passionate about what they do. It’s like tapping into a new consumer demographic.

Sponsoring a race or marathon is great PR for a company or organization, it can show a different side to what one normally see’s in a company.

Dick’s Sporting Goods sponsors the Pittsburgh Marathon (which I’ve always secretly wanted to run even though I hate Pittsburgh with a passion.) Rite Aide sponsors the Cleveland Marathon (which I also want to run if I can whip my butt into shape by then – hey I’m working on it and alright, alright, the half is probably going to be more realistic for me as of right now since there’s only 46 days left ’til race day.)

Sponsorship of race by Rite Aid

Sponsorship of race by Rite Aid

Also the famous Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure organization is another huge sponsor of races and charities. Next time you find yourself in the grocery store take a look at all the pink labels that certain foods like Cambell’s and Yoplait sponsor in turning labeling pink for a certain amount of time.

Take a look at the hugely impressive list of corporate sponsors for Susan G. Komen here. If that doesn’t say good things about a company or organization then I don’t know what does. There’s a certain level of respect and generosity that comes to a company the sponsors races. The company can really benefit from this in the eyes of the community.

As an inspiring PR pro, I want to be a part of a company or organization that sponsors some sort of charity race. Nothing feels better then raising money and trying to help those in need and all companies and organization should strive to try and make that a part of the business’s plan and moral.

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4 thoughts on “Sponsoring Races: a PR approach

  1. This couldn’t be more perfectly put. I think it’s often overlooked how many initiatives and how much planning goes into programs like the races this post was talking about. Grant programs like that probably couldn’t and wouldn’t be as successful as they are and, thus, beneficial to the community their funds are benefiting without the integrated marketing strategies that go into them. So, yes, the basic strategy to raise money/awareness for causes may be the race, but, like you pointed out, it’s also the gifts and the refreshments and name-brand sponsorship that make a great cause complex enough to bring about the best possible outcome.
    I don’t know the exact specifications or initiatives that go along with these specific races, but it would also help the success of the tactic if online buzz was created about the event. I think a street team with its own tactics to hype the event would also be greatly impactful, but online buzz would be easier to monitor in relation to traffic and reader interest. An online poll could even be distributed or placed on the event website where runners could “check in” if they’re planning to attend the run. There could be a rolling tally of the number, and the constant growth could spur other runners to get involved, too.

  2. That’s a good idea with trying to create an online buzz for a running event. Most races have online registration, but perhaps some sort of poll on the race’s registration page would be interesting to track why or why not a runner would be or isn’t interested in this particular race. Also making a Facebook event would probably be beneficial, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Facebook event for any race I’ve ever ran.

Let me know what you think!

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