North Carolina’s largest 10K running race, Around the Crown 10K Together with Truist (ATC10K), is also an expert in securing and maintaining event sponsors with 80 percent of its sponsors being multi-year partners with a retention rate of 92 percent year over year. The philosophy is simple: Identify potential partners who share a vision to move Charlotte, NC, forward. Event organizers are proud of their “part science, part art” approach to growing their sponsorship base in that they rarely conduct cold-calling and are selective of who they bring onboard. 

While ATC10K was bucking national running race registration trends with growth in its participation, it was also growing its lineup of annual events and stakeholder interest. From early 2023 to race day on September 3, event organizers grew its event portfolio’s multi-year sponsor roster from 57 percent to 80 percent. Event organizers feel that by offering evergreen marketing opportunities based on ATC10K’s three core pillars of inclusivity, sustainability and Charlotte, the events stand out as a prime lead generation event for Charlotte-based brands. 

“Identify your core pillars and find companies that align with them,” says Brian Mister, race director for Around the Crown 10K. “You’re not selling a race, you’re selling a community — what does your community love and give money to?”

ATC10K presents multi-year partnerships when meeting with potential sponsors because organizers feel it helps to build out the event’s portfolio, awareness and credibility of the sponsor’s products or services with race participants, and momentum between all four events leading up to ATC10K. With two- and three-year agreements, ATC10K can integrate the sponsor’s full vision of what they feel is a successful return on investment throughout the year with less time between consumer engagements. It allows for more relationship building between the participants and sponsor, between sponsors and other sponsors and also between ATC10K and sponsors. 

One of ATC10K’s multi-year sponsors is a running sock brand, Feetures, which has assumed naming over a key program within ATC10K’s events lineup: the Feetures First Timers Club. It is often promoted not only through ATC10K’s owned channels, including email and social media, but also through earned media in local newspapers, newsletters and TV station appearances. 

“Feetures’ partnership with Around the Crown 10K demonstrates our commitment to our hometown running community and to supporting runners and other athletes in their pursuit of healthy, active lifestyles,” says Joe Gaither, Feetures chief marketing officer. “We like to say that people are meant to move – regardless of age, background, experience or ability – and ATC10K helps us bring that mission to life by being one of the most inclusive races in the region.”

Its  Feetures First Timers Club, which celebrates those competing in their first ever race, is an example of this synergy. “There’s something special about meeting people at their passion points and ATC10K helps us stay not only top of mind with its runners, but on their feet as well,” Gaither adds.

Some advice from ATC10K event organizers to other event organizers who wish to grow their sponsorship portfolio: 

• Consider presenting various sponsorship levels for single-year and multi-year partnerships: cash, product or a mix of both. 

• Ask current sponsors for referrals of like-minded brands that would be a good fit and mirror your event’s mission and vision.

• When meeting with potential sponsors, let them know you have chosen them to come on the journey with you because of the natural fit between the two entities.

• Consider your deliverables that you can present to potential sponsors such as number of referral traffic to your website, emails sent by race to participants with sponsors’ logos, race press hits and number of attendees at the race expo and other pre-race events.