Breweries were actually title sponsors of races in the 70s and 80s. I directed a 10K and put the word out that we needed a sponsor. Coors was new to the Midwest at the time and opened their checkbook without hesitation. Long sleeve tees, hats, lots of free Coors for participants over 19 (the state drinking age at that time), and my club made three years worth of operating cash. The local Coors distributor also helped to book a live band for the post-race festivities. Runners paid $10 to race a certified downtown course and we had prize money to boot. No 5K, walk, kid's dash, dog jog, color bursts, etc. needed to attract the masses.
The only local 5K event that was staged at the time was a night event under the streetlights sponsored by Stroh's Beer (which no longer exists). Everything else was a 5 mile, 10K, or half marathon. The fields were mostly comprised of people that took running pretty seriously (no costumes, tu-tus, funny hats) and the most entrants were concerned about two things: is the course flat? Is it TAC (predecessor to USATF) certified so that my time is legitimate?
I miss those days compared to our current "Inclusive Family Fun Fair and Kind of Close to 5K Corporate Advertising Event". That'll be $65 if you enter online six months prior to race day, $85 after that. Shirts are only an extra $30!