Small Business Marketing: Sponsoring a 5K

Lindsey Weedston Local Advertising, Public Relations

When you’re running a small business, it can be hard to get yourself any kind of attention in a crowded market where everyone else is advertising their business, and a lot of them have more money and resources to do it. So when you’re just starting out, it’s often helpful to go smaller. Look for ways to run local campaigns and get your community directly involved – show that you’re a human running a business and not a faceless corporation.

5K Runners

There are a number of ways to pull this off, and one of the best is to get involved with charity. You can get a ton of attention by organizing a charity 5K run in your town. The only problem is that you likely have no idea how to even get started doing such a thing.

Luckily, there are online guide for everything. Here’s how you go about it:


Step 1: Find a Cause

Ideally, the charity that will benefit from the 5K should be somehow related to your business. If that’s not possible, try to select something relevant to a recent event, like a natural disaster. Check to see if the month you want to hold the 5K is dedicated to a certain illness. You could also go local by supporting a nearby hospital or fire department.

Step 2: Gather Volunteers

Find a dedicated group of volunteers to help you coordinate the event. Each volunteer will need to be able to commit time for up to several months, as planning a 5K can take a long time depending on the resources at your disposal. Friends and family members work best, but if you need more people, try advertising online. Craigslist works well for this type of thing, and it’s completely free.

Step 3: Choose a Company

There are companies who run these events – all you have to do is find them. Often a local sports store or running shoes store has experience running 5K’s, so ask around. You can also reach out to businesses that have already sponsored 5K’s for advice. The company you hire will usually help you set up and provide the equipment necessary to host the run.

Step 4: Find Runners

In order to get runners for your 5K, you’ll need to advertise it! You can print out flyers and posters and take them to athletic shops and gyms around town. Local media outlets are also often interested in covering local charity events like this, so make some calls. Even your town’s chamber of commerce can help you with this. You won’t find many people who will turn down the chance to participate in advertising a charitable event.

Step 5: Make T-Shirts
This can be expensive, but you should at least have stickers or something to go on the participants’ clothing to advertise both the charity and the sponsor (your business).

Step 6: Raise Funds

The money that goes to the charities comes from the runners. This typically works in one of two ways. Either you charge the runners a flat fee to enter the race ($10 is usually standard for a small time run), or you ask runners to get their own pledges. If you go the latter route, you’ll provide each runner with a signup sheet and they’ll go out and ask people to donate a certain amount to the charity on the condition that they finish the race.

Step 7: Acquire Permits

You’ll need to contact your local government to get permission to use the city streets for your 5K. They’ll help you plan out the route and likely assign police officers to keep cars off the roads and do crowd control during the race.

Step 8: Setup

On race day, you’ll need to have your volunteers out in force to give out the t-shirts and numbers and collect donations. You’ll want to provide refreshments like bottled water and sports drinks, make sure there are chairs for spectators, and have people at the finish line to take pictures. Also be sure to have big banners with your company name or logo on them at the start and finish of the race. As a bonus, you can invite local vendors and food trucks to make the 5K a big event.


Sponsoring a 5K is a lot of work and definitely a long-term project, but if it’s successful enough, it’s something you can do for your community every year – and every year it can be bigger. You can get a reputation as a charitable business and soon find yourself with a really loyal local customer base. If you have the resources and do it right, it’s worth it.