From the generation that brought you “YOLO” and “Live, Love, Dance” tattoos, the “colour run” has been highlighted — literally — as the next equally meaningless fad selling happiness, individuality and the promise of living in the moment.
The colour run is a 5-kilometre run where people pay to have colored cornstarch hurled at their faces and bodies. The event is a bastardization of Holi, a Hindu religious celebration.
Dyed powder was once used to colour individuals in celebration of divine love and the changing of seasons. Now, dyed cornstarch is placed in compressed tanks similar to fire extinguishers to be shot at hyped-up 20-somethings paying nearly $50 for the privilege. America!
The colour run market in North America seems to be cornered by three major players: The Color Run, Color Me Rad and Run or Dye. A quick search reveals that a number of other, similar companies are hosting the exact same “unique” experience. The idea that paying to have tinted cornstarch shot at you will help you find happiness has been described as “the best legal scam since the pet rock,” a fad created by an advertising executive who used it to amass a $5-million fortune.
Though the run certainly has some benefits for participants, like memories forever preserved in Facebook photos of colour-drenched friends, and the obvious physical and mental benefits of general exercise, these hardly measure up to what entrants are being sold.
Color Me Rad offers a “guarantee that your outlook will be brighter” after participating in its 5-kilometre cornstarch explosion, and that’s only one of many such outlandish promises.
The Color Run with the most vibrant, beautiful spirit I know- Her name is Love. #ColorRun http://t.co/6gYdbNVNQ8
— Michael Berger (@GodsWarrior_) October 5, 2013
That was one of the best experiences of my life! #5K #ColorMeRad pic.twitter.com/igT2PRsXxj
— Brooklyn Hamilton (@brookhamiltonn) October 5, 2013
All major color run companies note that a portion of their profit is given to local or national charities, though the amount varies based on the charitable organization and the size of the event.
Alaskan reporter Laurel Andrews crunched the numbers for the Anchorage Color Run where the charity of choice, The Boys’ and Girls’ Club, was given a maximum of 3.33 per cent of the $300,000 profit — and only after they supplied upwards of 250 volunteers.
Not all partner organizations are even registered charities. The recent Kitchener, Ont. Color Me Rad event was partnered with Triton Sports, a sport event management company. Triton Sports’ only involvement was to recruit volunteers from local Kitchener sports teams. Color Me Rad donated a set amount per volunteer to that volunteer’s sport team.
Triton Sports reported that roughly 7,000 people were registered for the Kitchener run. At $45 per person, the registration fees brought in $315,000. Of course, overhead costs are a factor. Some simple and very liberal math based on numbers provided by the City of Kitchener outline the cost of a colour run:
- After-party space: free
- Policing and security: $5,000
- Road closures: $2,000
- The unknown (travel, set up, staffing, clean up): an estimated $20,000
- Total costs: $27,000
- Net profit: 288,000
If these unofficial figures are anywhere near accurate, Color Me Rad’s profit far outweighs the charitable donation to Kitchener youth sports teams of just $8,000.
This leads to a question of whether colour runs are donating, or if they’re milking a charitable reputation to receive cheap, contracted labour for an incredible profit.
If running through a spectrum of dust is your thing, then yes, it’s probably a fun event. But don’t expect to find inner peace in a colour-induced, haze, and definitely don’t consider signing up an act of charity. Your entrance fee definitely helps make the corporation running the show richer, might help a local organization, and likely won’t help you stay happy beyond whatever joy you reap from ‘likes’ on your rainbow of new profile pictures.
[image via Scooter Lowrimore/Flickr]