Let’s Run’s quote of the day today is from a New York Times article about the recent loosening of sponsorship rules in track and field and road running. Agent Mark Wetmore says:
If the shoe companies went away, you could have 100 logos and nobody would be as well off as they are today.
I think I get his meaning. But I’m not sure I agree with the premise.
What would happen if all the shoe companies did go away? Would we all walk around barefoot? Would we hoard old shoes and carefully repair them like Cuba’s pre-embargo classic cars?
Of course not. There would still be a demand for the product, and a large one, so new shoe companies would be created to fill that need. Shoe companies could never just go away. It’s one of the basics of a capitalist free market.
One of the other basic principles of economics is that advertising can help create or at least expand demand. That’s an even more important idea in this discussion. Why? It’s what athlete sponsorship is all about.
Wetmore hints, and some at December’s USATF convention came right out and said, that shoe companies are being gracious and generous by sponsoring athletes. Rubbish. Sponsorship adds to the bottom line. Over a million U.S. high school students participate in track and field every year, and that’s a big market of shoe buyers. The adult running population is at least 25 times that, representing an even bigger market. Athletes wearing Nike or adidas or what have you are walking billboards, one of many methods of associating success (or some other desirable quality) with a specific brand. Athlete sponsorship does not come from the goodness of anyone’s heart; it comes from a simple need to maintain or expand market share.
There are other valid arguments that can be made. Changing the rules of the game so that exclusivity of sponsorship is on the table for bargaining could be bad for some sectors of track and field. It might add to the cost of sponsorship, and thus shrink the number of athletes under contract. But I don’t think that’s what’s being said here. What’s being said by representatives of shoe companies reminds me of Oliver Twist, and the uproar that ensued when he had the audacity to ask for more.
On Day One of the Hakone Ekiden, Toyo University detroyed the course record and has a huge lead going into day two. Defending champs Waseda University ran only 2 seconds off the course record and find themselves far behind. Brett Larner has the story.
What’s On Today
The second and final day of the Hakone Ekiden. Go to Japan Running News for online viewing and live commentary.
Late last week, Russia’s Dmitry Starodubtsev put up a huge PR of 5.90 meters.
British coaching legend Frank Horwill has passed away at the age of 84.
The Independent interviews British head coach Charles van Commenee.
A new documentary about Jesse Owens is coming to the Big Ten Network, one which shows that while his Olympic exploits may have repudiated Nazi notions of Aryan racial superiority, they had no effect on American notions of white racial superiority.