Sponsorship Spotlight

Leah Etling, Running USA
No Source
February 20, 2018

Steve Ginsburg shares insight into what led to the Hot Chocolate Series welcoming Allstate® for a three year title sponsor role


When we last caught up with Steve Ginsburg, he shared his strategy for launching the successful nationwide Hot Chocolate race series, one that attempted to keep entry frees relatively affordable while offering a high quality race experience, from the goody bag swag to the hot chocolate poured at the finish line.

The one thing we didn’t talk much about was sponsorship.

Fast forward nearly two years, and it turns out that selecting a title sponsor for the race was something Ginsburg (right) was playing a long game on. After starting a conversation with Allstate® insurance three years ago, in January, RAM Racing announced that the company has signed a three year deal as the title sponsor of the Allstate® Hot Chocolate 15K/5K.

“The reality of situation is that running events are getting more and more expensive to produce. City fees and police fees and all of those expenses keep going up. They don’t go down,” Ginsburg said candidly.

“Runners are looking for more and more with regards to experience, and we never stop trying to deliver that. Everything we do, we’re always trying to improve it. But there’s increasing costs to doing that. Without the support of sponsors, you just can’t make it anymore.”

Race directors of events of all sizes are probably nodding their heads at that remark. At the recent Running USA conference in Austin, a packed general session panel discussion on sponsorship listened with rapt attention as representatives of Brooks Running, Nuun Hydration, the Boston Athletic Association and J&A Racing sliced and diced the new nuances of endurance sponsorship.

The common thread between that panel discussion and our conversation with Steve? Providing value alignment and experiential return for your corporate sponsor is more important now than ever before.

For the Hot Chocolate series and Allstate®, demonstrating that alignment started with the company making a trial run as a presenting sponsor of the series’ Chicago event. From there, the conversation continued.

“Their goals were aligned with ours – they want to support the running industry and promote a healthy, active lifestyle for people. They also are excited about being involved and helping us with our fundraising for charities. It was a complete alignment,” Ginsburg said.

Allstate comments: ""When we decided to diversify Allstate's sponsorship portfolio, it was important that the next endeavor align directly with our brand's core values. RAM Racing was a clear choice, and we are thrilled to be embarking on this exciting three-year partnership and adding a lifestyle component to our sponsorship portfolio."

Ginsburg believes that several larger, top quality sponsors are better for events than multiple smaller sponsors.

“We didn’t start off with 17 races and 300,000 runners. I started with one small 5K race in Chicago, 16 years ago. That race that had a cotton t-shirt with 20 sponsors on the back in black ink. I thought that was ridiculous,” Ginsburg said. He decided to break the mold that so many races around the country were following at the time.

 “I was going to have one sponsor, not 20. I was going to deliver for them if they could deliver back. One of the 20 became a title sponsor, and it was a great relationship for many years.” Hot Chocolate races in each city have additional "official sponsors," which include companies like Nuun, Absopure, Nature's Bounty, and JVC.

He talks about the perfect sponsor creating a “euphoric triangle.”

It works like this: The sponsor believes in the running industry and has something to give back to the runner, just as the runner gives back to the sponsor with their interest or allegiance. Meanwhile, the runner and the race production company have a mutually beneficial give and take, as do the sponsor and the race organizer.

For event producers who feel like companies are suffering from sponsor fatigue, it may be best to rethink how your values are aligned with your prospect sponsors, how you’re telling your story and what you have to offer the companies you’re approaching.

“Allstate® signing on as title sponsor is a real affirmation of what we’ve accomplished. But it’s also great for our industry. It really shows that corporate America sees value in what we do as a running industry on a daily basis,” said Ginsburg.

What else is new at RAM Racing? Hot Chocolate is going international this year, he shared. The race is expanding to Mexico City, China and Australia in 2018.

Discuss: Sponsorship Spotlight

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