The Godfather of Gummy Bears
Since 2001, Stuart Siegler has operated one of the most popular, yet unofficial, pit-stops at the Baltimore Marathon. Siegler and his brother Gary (who used to live along the marathon route) have given away Gummy Bears at mile 23 of the Baltimore Marathon since 2002. How many? This year they expect to give away 400 pounds worth.
On his website – www.runfreeordie.com (Siegler has moved from Baltimore and now resides in New Hampshire, as you probably guessed from his site title) Siegler describes the how the giveaway has grown:
2002, I bought 20 pounds, and ran out after 5 hours or so.
2003, I doubled it to 40 pounds, and ran out after 4 hours. I sprinted a few miles to the nearest Safeway, made a deal with the manager, and bought another 10 pounds.
2004, I doubled it again, to 80 pounds, and got thru the race with gummys to spare (well, about 5 pounds worth, and about 5 pounds worth on the ground).
2005 took about 110 pounds.
2006 I had 160 pounds ready, as the race had grown by 30%
2007 Brings another 30% increase in runners, and extending the size of the takes me to 240 pounds.
2008 320 pounds. I ran this one as my 50th marathon, so my brother Gary took over and we had some additional volunteers, including Bob Slowey.
2009 expects 25% more runners, So we'll be there with 400 pounds.
What started as one man’s campaign to give back to the running community has grown to include 10-12 volunteers this year. Siegler estimates he spends $1500 per year on the gummy give away.
In an interview with the The Biz Runner, Siegler says he’s repeatedly reached out to the brand of Gummy Bears he gives out - Harmony Foods, a subsidiary of Empire Diamond Foods Inc. (the makers of Emerald Nuts) - but has never gotten a response.
“I am really surprised that the company has never gotten back to me” he says. “I had offered -- in exchange for "at cost" gummy's -- to put up whatever marketing/signage they wanted, and to have whatever promo material included in the runners's goodie bags. How was that a no-lose for them?”
He’s right. Harmony has choked away a great marketing opportunity. A lot of companies would do anything to get themselves placement INSIDE the runner’s goodie bag. Think about it. 20,000 people will be running the Baltimore Marathon and taking home a goodie bag. That kind of exposure is priceless and would certainly cost more than the $1500 worth of gummys Siegel gives away (and that’s with the store mark-up – you know its cheaper at cost).
Siegler has also become a media favorite in the Baltimore community. When reporters seek out colorful characters for marathon coverage, Siegler is a popular target and has been profiled in Baltimore papers. He could easily be referencing Harmony gummy bears - generating additional coverage.
You can argue that Harmony doesn’t need any help to sell gummy bears and you may be right. But this is still an extremely low cost, high impact way to connect with consumers and its foolish for any company - especially a publicly traded company - not to maximize its returns.
It’s worth pointing out that the Emerald Nuts brand of Diamond Foods is very active in the running community. They have sponsored The ING New York City Marathon, The Los Angeles Marathon, The Las Vegas Marathon and The Chicago Half Marathon & 5K among other things. So Empire knows the value of a running sponsorship.
Even if Harmony won’t officially be at the Baltimore Marathon this weekend, Stuart Siegler will. So good luck to everyone running the Baltimore Marathon and look for Stuart at mile 23!
Updated October 14th, 2009