In preparation for this weekend’s big Color Run that will be wreaking havoc in Ypsi, I thought that I’d repost what I’d written about the event last year, just as the “charity” event was wrapping up.
Let me start out by saying that I like that the Color Run took place in Ypsi this morning. Anything, in my opinion, that brings upwards of 15,000 people into the city, to spend their money, is a good thing, even if they do shut down a lot of streets, and leave tons of trash in their wake. It was incredibly cool to see Beezy’s, the Ugly Mug, and Sidetrack packed this morning, and a throng of people around the Growing Hope bicycle blender, waiting to buy smoothies from young Ypsilanti entrepreneurs. With all that said, though, I find the whole thing kind of weird… I just don’t get why anyone would spend $50 to have people throw shit in their faces as they jog… But, I guess, as religion plays less and less a part in the daily life of Americans, folks are hungry for (purchased) experiences that allow them to feel as though they’re part of something bigger than themselves… And, I suppose, this is probably better than goading bulls as they stampede through narrow alleyways, or any number of other things.
When I first heard that Ypsi would be one of 30 U.S. cities to host a 5K Color Run, and that some of the proceeds would be going to local non-profits, I sent off a note to the organization, asking just how much money our non-profits were likely to get. They told me, “The charities and their requirements, needs, partnerships, fundraising, disclosure limitations and agreements vary with each venue,” and suggested that I contact the charities directly. (The local charities that partnered with the Color Run were Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, SOS Community Services, Michigan ElvisFest, Ypsilanti Area Jaycees, Downtown Association of Ypsilanti, Growing Hope and Food Gatherers.) While I’ve yet to reach out to any of them directly, I did hear from an anonymous source that the total contribution was in the ballpark of $13,000, with those charities that turned out the most volunteers this morning, getting larger shares.
So, here’s the math as I figure it… The last official count that I heard was that 17,500 had registered for today’s run. According to their site, registration, depending on how big of a team you to have, runs from $45 to $55. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll be conservative, and assume $45. 17,500 people, paying $45 a piece, would yield a whopping $787,500. Assuming my source was right, and our local charities received $13,000, that means they received considerably less than 2% of the total take. And, for that $13,000, the corporate entity behind the Color Run not only got a lot of free publicity, but they also got a great deal of free labor… Not a bad business model, huh?
But, like I said, our local business people had a great day, and the neon corn starch-covered people that I came in contact with were all nice. Still, something seems odd about it… Maybe I’m just jealous that it didn’t occur to me to commoditize an Indian religious ritual.
I’ll give them credit, though. They’ve done a bang up job of marketing this thing.
[note to self: Now, I just need to find a way to Americanize this festival in Lebanon and bring it to the midwest with a pop soundtrack.]
Oh, and for what it’s worth, I think that this might also mark the end of legitimate rave culture. (It occurred to me this morning, as I was watching neon covered midwestern folks jogging into the park, where techno music was being blasted, that this is what rave culture looks like when it’s marketed to the suburban masses.)
To my knowledge, not much has changed since I first posted this a year ago, at least relative to how the money is shared with those non-profits that assist with the marketing of these events, and provide the free labor which makes them possible. There have, however, been changes on other fronts. Most notably, a competitor, seeing what a cash cow the Color Run is, has decided to get into the act. And, in fact, this group, called Color Me Rad, will be hosting a run of their own in Detroit on the very day the Color Run will be in Ypsi… Oh, and others have begun to join me in pointing out that this whole thing is a scam. Hopefully, over time, this will build, and the organizers will be forced to give more than 2% of their proceeds to the communities they shut down and trash… Of course, everyone seems to know how terrible of an organization the Susan G. Komen Foundations is, and yet they continue to keep right on going. The sad reality, I think, is that people just don’t give a shit. They like wearing pink ribbons, running through clouds of neon cornstarch, and feeling as though, by doing so, they’re making a difference.
Just to be clear, though, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t host this event. It’s good for business, and it brings a ton of people to Ypsi. I just wish that our non-profits shared a bit more in the obscene wealth that’s being created on our turf.
[note: Those who are interested in going deeper on this are encouraged to read through the 100+ comments which were left when this post first ran.]