Having Skechers as the official shoe sponsor of the BolderBOULDER 10k race is like having Schwinn bikes as the official sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California or Kenneth Cole swimwear sponsoring the swimming national championships, right?
The BolderBOULDER was selected as the All-Time Best 10k by Runner’s World magazine and is the largest timed race in the United States. It had 54,000 runners in 2014 (the Boston Marathon has about 30,000) and likely as many earlier today. It also features the most elite American, Kenyan, Ethiopian & Mexican runners in the world.
So, the official shoe sponsor of the BolderBOULDER must be one of the heavyweights, right? Nike, Adidas, Asics, Mizuno, Saucony, Brooks, New Balance. Of course.
No, it’s Skechers.The shoe company that most recently hired Joe Montana and Kim Kardashian to shill “Shape Ups” shoes is now the sponsor of one of the top road races in the world?
U.S. Olympic silver medal-winning marathoner Meb Keflezighi wore Skechers as he won the 2014 Boston Marathon. Runner’s World just named the Skechers GORun Ride 3 in its top 3 running shoes for the year in 2014!
The 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist and 1981 BolderBOULDER champion and co-founder Frank Shorter gave some insight about trends in road racing right now.
“There’s a trend in the sport, so let’s be honest,” Shorter said at the opening BolderBOULDER press conference. “Certain companies are more interested in the demos of the people in the stadium than the elite runners.”
Maybe there’s reason for that. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, running/jogging is growing over the last five years. For casual runners (1-49 times per year) it is up 7.2% over the last five years. For core runners (50+ times per year) it is up 4.7%.
For context, Shorter wasn’t specifically talking about Skechers at that moment, but he might as well have been. Shorter went on to explain that companies investing in amateurs could be negatively impacting investment in elite runners. He and other race officials encouraged the elite runners to promote themselves, embrace social media and help the American public learn more about them as individuals.
Can a company get more return on investment from the amateurs than the elite runners? That seems to be what Shorter is implying.
I personally didn’t notice many Skechers in the stands or from the runners, but this seems to be the first step of their event marketing marathon.
The reality is that it’s a blend of two. That’s definitely how it works in the swimming industry in my opinion. Elite athletes drive inspiration and grassroots athletes are the one at the cash register. It seems Skechers understands that.
Speaking of the blend of elite & amateurs, there is no race I have ever seen that “gets it” more than the BolderBOULDER when using the amateur herd to draw attention to the elite runners. In most races, the elite runners go off first before the rest of the pack. Not at the BolderBOULDER. The 50,000+ runners go off first and all finish in the University of Colorado football stadium. Then, by the time the elite runners go off there’s a built-in stadium full of people who appreciate running to watch the elite race finish in front of them. This could be something for us to look at in swimming when it comes to open water races.
Maybe Skechers gets that too.