I hear people freak out when they see a runner/thrower/jumper not sponsored yet. However, just because you made the Olympics doesn't mean a ton. Why would a company sponsor you when they probably have little return on their investment. Unless you have a million Instagram followers, it probably makes little sense. I love the sport and want to see runners get more money, but it's important to be realistic.
NFL players make so much because the sport brings in the money. There is a return on investment to pay an NFL player $20M/year or sign them to a sponsorship deal. An NFL player is insanely popular. We are not. A kid will go out and buy that product when they see him on TV.
People in our sport think we should wag our finger at these big companies when they haven't sponsored someone yet. Give me a break...they are not in the business of charity.
Nothing is more important and hard to calculate as (lifetime customer value)/(customer acquisition costs). Shoes are not software, but I am sure that the marketing types are running the models when they set athlete budgets. As others have pointed out, the total amounts are small.
For most track and running athletes, there isn't a big return on investment for sponsoring them, hence why there is so little money in running vs other sports. There is a return for the sponsors, it's not a "hand-out," but the audience reached is pretty small. The problem isn't that the shoe companies are too greedy, it's that the number of people who watch the sport is too small. If millions of people tuned in to watch a pro track meet every summer Saturday night, money would pour in from all directions. But that isn't going to happen anytime soon.
It's advertising and PR for them. Before Meb. no one considered Sketchers as a company that made serious running shoes. Now everyone does. Avia made serious running shoes for many years. Maybe they still do. But they never put any top level runners in their shoes. How many people buy them now? I know people who have worked at Nike and I'll tell you that Nike does not want people seeing top placers at significant runners wearing shoes from competitiors.
Might not be wrong on that, but Nike's helps them guarantee they have 95% of the future Kipchoge's and Ingebritsen's locked into very friendly contracts early on. Their approach is to flood the market early. Sponsor far and wide on cutthroat deals to athletes who otherwise wouldn't get a sponsorship, and now you have them they have their right of first refusal clause. Sign a no name 13:30 17 year old Ethiopia to a kit only deal with right of first refusal and if he turns out to be a dud then you lost some shoes that cost you a dollar to make. But if he turns into Selemon Barega, guess what, you have one of the best athletes in the world locked up. If he ever wants to switch company you, the clause works such that just the act of agreeing to match instantly extends the existing contract. So long as you are happy to keep paying a guy fair market rate you're basically guaranteed to have studs locked up for their whole careers.
So that's what Nike does - goes out and floods the aspiring athletics market with kit deals and cheap salaries. $1,000,000 worth of salaries plus product can lock up 50+ upcoming athletes. 45 of them might be duds - no problem, you can reduce them and recoup some of your losses anyway. 4 of them could turn into decent Olympians, medalists, and one could turn into a name with decent national or international recognition.
It's easier and more cost effective to lock in an Eliud Kipchoge or a Neeraj Chopra when they're young and use that leverage later on than it is to try get into a bidding war on them once they've made it to the big time (Chopra was the 6th most googled athlete in all sports in 2021).
I am still waiting for someone to sponsor Noah Droddy before I decide to buy my next pair of running shoes. I’m desperate, as my old sauconys are so worn out that I can’t jog a mile without the threat of a career ending injury.
Yeah, it makes more sense when you take that hedging, and long term view into consideration.
Also, it might be some marketing value by seeing that everyone wears Nike.
But still, could it be cheaper by just producing the best shoe, and the absolute top runners would want a deal anyway? Because to be honest, even though Barega is an olympic gold medallist, i doubt many people buy shoes and apparel because of him alone.
Right...because one guy on LetsRun mentioning he bought shoes due to Merber makes it a great investment for the shoe company?
There were a few good points made here on the reasoning. I get it. In the bigger picture view, it's not a lot of money to sponsor top runners just to ensure your brand is flooding the eyes of everyone. It still doesn't make it an obvious return on investment, but it puts companies, like Nike, everywhere.
I wonder if Nike is only involved in sponsoring pro runners for the sake of how Nike started. Are you going to tell me Phil Knight didn't make it a mandate that Nike had to be involved? Hard to believe that was never a conversation at the table. Nike could invest in a sponsorship deal with a 2nd string left tackle on the worst NFL team and still have a better ROI.