Businesses Off To A Running Start Bloomsday Chance To Attract New Customers

Take 1 pound of semolina pasta and two high-tech, air-cushioned running shoes. Mix well. Run like crazy.

That’s the recipe for Bloomsday success, according to the Spokane companies sponsoring “Carboload for Bloomsday.”

The promotion, which began Friday, offers a free bag of Buckeye Beans & Herbs Bicycle Pasta to anyone who buys shoes, clothes or equipment at Fit & Hollywood downtown.

In marketing, as in sports, Bloomsday is Spokane’s Super Bowl - that once-a-year chance for businesses to capture the attention of consumers they might otherwise miss. From pasta buffets to diagnostic foot exams, Spokane businesses are sponsoring “event marketing” ad campaigns, which experts say are among the most effective and creative marketing techniques.

“Event marketing is very popular because it works,” said Doug MacLachlan, professor in marketing and international business at the University of Washington. The technique is successful because it targets people already interested in products that surround an event and because event marketing affords advertisers more creativity, he said.

For Bloomsday, the key is to get participants to think of an advertiser’s product as synonymous with the event. The most successful advertisers court runners in fresh, unexpected ways, MacLachlan said.

For example, physician and foot surgeon Borys Markewych sponsors free, 15-minute foot and ankle screenings at South Hill Foot & Ankle Clinic, 3028 S. Grand Blvd., from now until Bloomsday. Although he offers the promotions two or three times throughout the year, more people take advantage of the deal around Bloomsday, he said.

During the screening, the doctor discusses the patient’s shoes, stretching exercises and practice schedule. He may recommend special shoes or stretches for those with heel pain or weak ankles. If runners need therapy or prescriptions, they must schedule another appointment at full cost.

After Bloomsday, Markewych waits out the post-run lull before business picks up again. But once it picks up, business is often better than pre-race.

“There’s a two- to three-week lag after Bloomsday when runners stop coming in,” he said.

“Most people believe your feet are supposed to hurt for that long after a race. They wait until it gets worse or the pain persists. Then they come in.”

Advertisers for local hotels and restaurants are also cashing in on Bloomsday, mostly by telling runners where to get healthy doses of prerace carbohydrates.

The Sheraton-Spokane Hotel’s Bloomsday Carbo Loading Dinner on May 6 features linguini alfredo, spaghetti marinara and mostaccioli with vegetable sauce. The SheratonSpokane also sponsors weekend packages for elite runners and wheelchair racers, who have reserved more than 80 rooms in the hotel.

C.I. Shenanigan’s, next to the Sheraton-Spokane on the Spokane River, also features an all-you-can-eat pasta bar May 6 and the annual Bloomsday Brunch on race day.

While some businesses offer promotions to entice consumers, others are increasing staff size in preparation for an onslaught of dinners, drinkers and shoppers on race day, May 7.

Rhonda Roller, manager of Waffles n’ More at 5312 N. Division, said she plans on scheduling all 20 part- and full-time employees to work on race day starting at 6:30 a.m.

A marquee proclaiming “The starting line for Bloomsday is right here!” will keep the restaurant on people’s minds from now until race time, Roller said.

After crossing the finish line, famished racers swarm the 150-seat restaurant from about 10 a.m. until midafternoon, said Roller, who’s worked at Waffles n’ More for nine years.

More than advertising or sales, companies offering Bloomsday promotions say the main goal is to ensure that runners and spectators have a good time.

“We do it more for in-store excitement. People really appreciate it, and it makes them smile,” said Patti Pettigrew, owner and pasta pusher at Fit & Hollywood.

That’s not to say Bloomsday is all about having fun. It takes hard work to ensure that runners have a steady supply of carbohydrates and good times, Roller said.

“We’ll be running our own little Bloomsday around here come race day,” she said.

“Sometimes I wonder who runs more - the people in the race or us trying to serve them.”

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