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Best of the Best: Fun Run

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[h3]J.R. Dunn Jewelers; Lighthouse Point, FL[/h3]

Best of the Best Logo[dropcap cap=J]ames Dunn is really into running. While he may not have a runner’s physique, he certainly goes the distance each year with his store’s annual Dunn’s Run. His annual run/walk event for charity not only helps the disadvantaged, but also has a wonderful side benefit: boosting sales for J.R. Dunn Jewelers while making his store name synonymous with a highly-anticipated sporting event in his local market.

[componentheading]THE IDEA[/componentheading]

Dunn’s Run began in 1996 when Dunn was looking for ways to add to his list of charitable activities that also serve to promote his store. Dunn began organizing a five-mile run and five-kilometer walk. After searching for an appropriate charity, a friend of Dunn’s mentioned to him that the Boys and Girls Club of America (BCGA) was building a new center in town. 

What began as a small idea has turned into a hugely successful and much-anticipated annual sporting event that draws upwards of 1,500 or more runners and walkers each fall. Scheduled for the first weekend of October, Dunn’s Run is “the first event of the running season,” says Dunn. “We get some serious runners, people training for the Olympics and even local celebrities.”

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[componentheading]THE EXECUTION[/componentheading]

Best of the Best: Fun RunOne such local celebrity was then future-gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush, who participated in the Dunn’s Run in 1997. This made it one of the most memorable Dunn’s Runs for the Florida jeweler. Says Dunn: “[Bush] is a good, strong runner and finished the whole race,” Dunn says. “He was running the event like he was running for governor.” Other memorable Dunn’s Run moments include a premature shot at the starting line, a one-legged runner who outpaced the walkers and a top runner whose shoes were stolen while getting a foot massage after crossing the finish line. “Someone must have thought the shoes might be worth something some day,” says Dunn. 

Each year, Dunn’s Run raises roughly $100,000 for the local BGCA. Of that money, Dunn donates $10,000 of his own money and campaigns for sizeable corporate sponsorships for the event. To promote the event, Dunn invests another $10,000 of his store’s marketing budget. Publicity for the event begins early in the spring and continues up to the eve of the October run. “Dunn’s Run is talked about most of the year and we do what we can to keep people talking about,” says Dunn. “We begin with small newspaper ads in the spring telling people to ‘start getting in shape’ and ‘don’t be a loser’ at the next Dunn’s Run. We have a lot of fun with the ads.” 

As the event draws near, the campaign gets more aggressive with more newspaper ads, TV spots and radio. On-air ads are ratcheted up a few notches two weeks before the run to help attract more last-minute entries from runners. By the date of the run, these investments have paid off with increased editorial coverage in newspapers and radios doing live spots from the race. The only thing missing from the publicity package, according to Dunn, is the local TV news stations, who haven’t covered the event much in Dunn’s Run’s eight-year history.

While the ad campaign goes from low simmer to a boil over the year, a committee is formed. Each of the run’s many sponsors typically sends a representative to be on the committee. And each year the goal is simple: to make a better Dunn’s Run than ever before. Last year’s improvements included having a calypso band serenading runners at the finish line. This year, the organizers are contemplating hosting a dinner at a nearby beachside hotel.

[componentheading]THE REWARDS[/componentheading]

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An even more important goal of the organizers is increasing the amount of funds raised for charity. Dunn’s goal is to eventually raise $200,000 from the event. Currently the five-mile run goes from Lighthouse Point to Deerfield Beach. Dunn is looking to eventually make it a half-marathon that would go from the beach at Lighthouse Point, where Dunn’s first Florida store is located, to Fort Lauderdale, where he has opened a newer store. Says Dunn: “Once we go to a half-marathon, we can get bigger and better sponsors, form corporate teams and organize the run to make it grow at a much faster pace,” says Dunn.

Since Dunn’s Run began in 1996, the jeweler’s business has been doing its own growing — doubling in only eight years’ time. Dunn attributes part of that success to the run, as well as his store’s other charitable events. “It keeps us out there in the community and people constantly talk about it all year. The event has definitely made its mark in this community,” says Dunn. “Today’s college-age runners are tomorrow’s diamond engagement-ring customers. We can attribute a lot of business to the run.” 

And, when it comes time to giving out prizes “we always work jewelry in there somewhere,” says Dunn. Out of the goodies that occupy his store’s display cases, watches are usually the preferred prize for Dunn’s Run winners. But Dunn shakes things up a bit with jewelry or car and vacation giveaways from local sponsors.

[componentheading]DO IT YOURSELF[/componentheading]

For any retailers who might be looking to duplicate Dunn’s runaway success, the jeweler has a few words of caution. Organizing such a race requires an incredible amount of planning. Getting sponsors and forming a committee is just the start. Permits are required to run the race, and local police and emergency crews must be organized to lend a hand. Plus there’s loads of incidental planning and expenses. So be ready … Dunn recalls buying oranges and bananas one year at 4:00 AM — just hours before the starting gun began, with a bang, the run that’s named after him.

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2005 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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