Bloomberg has a lengthy piece out on Brooks, its history and it's dream to reach $1 billion in sales. There is another thread about its growth plans but we wanted to start one devoted to a bombshell quote. Check this quote out from the CEO Jim Weber, “Running’s not really a sport."
Let me give you the full context of the quote. It comes in the second paragraph of the piece by Claire Suddath. Here are the first three paragraphs for context.
According to the people at Brooks Sports Inc., I’m not a runner. I’m what’s known within the company as a person who runs. “There’s a difference,” says Brooks Chief Executive Officer Jim Weber, who’s run three to five mornings a week, every week, for 35 years but apparently isn’t a runner either. When he says this, I give him a look, because, frankly, that’s ridiculous. I’ve been running for more than two decades. I run on business trips and vacations. I track my weekly mileage and voluntarily eat packets of electrolyte-enhanced goo that—why does no one talk about this?—tastes like mediocre cake frosting. In 2016, I ran my first marathon, an experience that melded transcendent euphoria and throbbing pain into an entirely new emotion I can’t really describe, other than to say it was both the best and worst thing I’ve ever felt. How am I not a runner?
“That’s a self-defined runner,” Weber explains, not a runner in the competitive, professional sense. And that’s all right, because—and here Weber lowers his voice like he’s gossiping about someone behind her back—“Running’s not really a sport.”
He has a point. Every year, 19 million Americans participate in some kind of organized road race—five times the number of people who play in basketball leagues—but most aren’t competing to win anything. Some 28 million more run regularly but don’t race. “Nobody remembers who won the Olympic marathon and what shoe they were wearing,” Weber says. So for Brooks, the 104-year-old Seattle-based company that makes running gear, and only running gear, to persuade those 47 million people to drop $100 to $180 on a pair of shoes, it first has to understand why they’re running. “The answer is almost always personal,” Weber says. “When people run, they’re doing it for themselves.”
I don't think Weber is saying competitive runners aren't important - he's just emphasizing that running is intensely personal for most purchasers - as later in the piece he brags about beating Nike.
This running-as-lifestyle philosophy has propelled Brooks from being a forgettable brand that 17 years ago was on the brink of a second bankruptcy to a $500 million company. It sells shoes in more than 60 countries, is the top brand at specialty running stores, and has produced the first- or second-most-popular shoe at the Boston Marathon for the past four years. At the 2016 Olympic marathon trials, more runners wore Brooks than any other brand. “Nike was second! To us!” Weber pumps his fist when he says this, adding a quietly ebullient “Yesssssss.”
I'll admit I about fell out of my chair when I read that first quote.
My response to it was, "Yes, they may not remember or know the name of the Olympic marathon champ but they assume it's a Nike athlete and that's why they have like 8 billion in sales per quarter."
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