Bulu Box co-founders Stephanie and Paul Jarrett hold the finish line tape for the Good Life Halfsy sponsored by Bulu Box. Stephanie said the finish was neck to neck with first and second place being within a second of each other. “It was incredibly exciting,” she said.
It was among the more unconventional marketing plays for cash-strapped Midwest startups, but Bulu Box was all in for sponsoring the Good Life Halfsy, a new half-marathon in Lincoln.
But not everyone was on board at first.
“I think Paul hesitated a bit at first and I don’t blame him,” Stephanie Jarrett, Bulu Box’s co-founder and Paul Jarrett’s wife, told SPN. “This wasn’t the type of growth hack tactic to gain tons of new customers—it was a branding and positioning event.
“He thought it could’ve served as more of a distraction from its real goals.”
It’s hard for a startup to invest money and time into something that doesn’t provide immediate results, Stephanie said, but Sunday’s race made her husband a believer.
At Monday morning’s wrap-up meeting, Paul said he was proud that they helped put on the event with Pink Gorilla, a company that puts of a number of Midwest running events including Nebraska’s Market to Market Relay.
And how could he not be?
Bulu Box, a samples subscription box for health and workout nuts, had its name plastered on medals, signs and the co-founders even got to hold the finish line ribbon Sunday. Its boxes were used as runner “packets.” Social media feeds were clogged with photos and hundreds of mentions from the run, which had nearly 3,500 participants and 500 volunteers from 26 states and 201 Nebraska cities. More than a dozen news stories last week.
But what does that all mean for Good Life Halfsy sponsor, Bulu Box?
Jarrett thinks the media exposure and exposure to new demographics is extremely valuable.
“In Lincoln and Omaha communities, I think Bulu Box is pretty well known as a startup and we’re active in that scene,” Stephanie said. “But I think this puts us on a map as a company that’s serious about health, nutrition and exercise.
“We had good traction on our site and a lot of fun at our expo booth where runners could build their own Bulu Box. As an e-commerce site, it was good for our team to interact with potential customers.”
The partnership came together last year when Pink Gorilla looked to start another half marathon in Lincoln. Lincoln’s only other half-marathon in May has sold out in hours so the demand was there.
The Jarretts have known Jason Bakewell of Pink Gorilla and saw a unique opportunity for a sponsor and partnership. Bulu Box’s graphic designer, Michael Maly, helped with the branding, graphics and medal (which doubles as a bottle opener and is up for a design award this week, Jarrett said).
It’s a little outside their traditional marketing which has relied on online marketing like social media, newsletters and blog content as well as partnering with fitness stars. But event sponsorship isn’t necessarily something that will work for every startup, Jarrett said.
“If it aligns with your mission, it’s something to look at,” she said. “Cost is always a factor because some sponsorships may be $50,000 or $100,000 or more and you can’t afford that at a startup stage.
“But our choice was to roll up our sleeves and help to make this event happen. Not only was it an awesome branding opportunity for us, but as a team, it was a chance to collaborate on something a little different. We had fun.”
The race sold out in 36 hours this year. Jarrett said Pink Gorilla wants to grow it next year.
And Bulu Box hopes to be back as sponsor.