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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Just a Thought for the Shoe Companies

Say you are a shoe company, and you decide to sponsor a professional running team.

You have money to pay 12 full-time salaries.

Most would spend one on a coach, and maybe a second for an assistant. Then, the remainder would cover 10 athletes.

But what if, instead, you signed seven athletes and three content creators? Better yet, what if you signed six athletes, three content creators, and then rounded up ten of the best unsigned athletes, gave them a gear deal, and had them face off in a reality show for the final spot on the team? The show would, of course, be produced by the three creators.

Look, I only lasted seven months in the corporate world, but it was long enough to realize that business is all about ROI. You want to get the maximum return on anything you put resources towards. If you spend a dollar, you want more than a dollar coming back.

Professional running is unique in that there isn't really a structure to help marketing investments reap their benefits. For contrast, take a look at a Major League Soccer team for example. Because an organization like the Portland Timbers employs staff in marketing, communications, and retail operations, a company like Alaska Airlines knows they will get a good ROI by being on the Timbers' uniforms as there are people working to give that uniform visibility.

Simply put, a shoe company can't just rely on fast times to get any kind of return on investment because the marketing infrastructure just doesn't exist. The teams and athletes they sponsor have to create that awareness and relevance for their brand, and ultimately, intrigue and loyalty, on their own.

So why not help them out? In theory, it would help the company in return.

Right now, we probably have too many professional runners, and at the same time, we don't have enough runners and teams with strong brands. A friend and I were discussing the various professional groups across the nation the other day, and without throwing anyone under the bus, there were a few teams who we struggled to name a single runner. It's not that they aren't good runners. It's that no one is telling their story.

Having more content creators will allow fans to better connect with athletes. Look at the success of the behind-the-scenes series (All or Nothing, Hard Knocks, The Ultimate Fighter, Last Chance U, etc.) that have taken over YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. Fans just want to pull back the curtain.

Look at any of the few athletes or teams (shout out to Tinman Elite and Hoka NAZ Elite) with a large fan base. They understand this better than others.

So, shoe companies, invest in content. Let fans fall in love with your team. Let them see your brand, and desire to become customers themselves.

Anyone who is a passionate amateur wants to be more like their professional counterparts. When I played the trumpet, I wanted my practice and equipment to emulate those who were playing in the New York Philharmonic or Boston Pops. When I played basketball, I wanted to wear the jersey and shoes that Kevin Garnett wore. As a result, I really don't buy the argument that professional runners can't or don't connect with amateurs. For those who love the sport, they'll look to the top for inspiration.

It's time to provide that.

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