by Nereo Lanzoni

Is it a competitive race? No.

Do you win something? No.

It’s for free? No.

Is it a charity race? No.

What are the secrets of THE COLOR RUN’s success? How did they manage to innovate a traditional activity such as non-competitive running races?

Born from an idea by Travis Snyder “The happiest 5K on the planet” has become a worldwide phenomenon.

From the first edition – March 2011 in Phoenix (Arizona) – it spread rapidly reaching dizzying numbers: 5 million participants. Every year, The Color Run events are organized in more than 200 cities in 40 countries: from Chile to Sweden, from China to South Africa. Each event is attended by 10,000 to 15,000 runners with a turnover of over € 300,000 per single event.

The Color Run embodies all the principles of the Design Thinking approach:

  • Empathy
  • Strategic ideation
  • Iteration
  • Collaboration

Reframing non-competitive races and giving new meaning and new value is in a nutshell what Travis Snyder did.

I summarized four success points of The Color Run:

  1. NO PAIN: No need for any athletic training. Most of the participants usually do not practice any sport.
  2. BE A TRIBE: the race kit is the first tribal marketing tool.

All the participants receive at the check-in an Hawaiian flower crown, The Color Run white t-shirt and some sticky tattos: now you have your uniform , you are a warrior of color. The passage in the Color Zone becomes a collective ritual in which everyone feels protagonists. The more color on the white t-shirt, the greater the fun.

  1. JUST FUN: The Color Run is first and foremost fun: with friends, with the staff, with everyone. The fun is before the start, during the 5K with the famous Color Zones and on the arrival with lots of music with the favorite DJs.
  2. BE SOCIAL: photos, videos and selfies to share spread the event in a viral way creating a wave of enthusiasm both in who participates and who will participate in the upcoming events.



Can a brilliant ideas turn in a successful business case?

What is the business model behind the Happiest 5K?

• Easy to sell everywhere: The Color Run format can be sold anywhere. Each city can host the event and easily organize.

• Win-Win approach: bars, restaurants, hotels, shops of the city hosting The Color Run are booming their turnover thanks to the arrival of 10,000+ runners.

• Easy to sell to sponsors: in addition to direct sales (tickets, gadgets), The Color Run business model provides extra revenues from sponsors. The Color Run sponsorship can be addressed to a wide range of companies from clothing to insurance, from car manufacturers to mobile phone providers.

• Low environmental impact: The Color Run has almost zero eco-impact on the area hosting the event.


The case history of The Color Run demonstrates how a market based on very low resources and a low level of innovation, can be transformed into a hen from golden eggs with full satisfaction of all. This is the power of innovation when it really works.