Competitor Group Once Again Changes Their Appearance Fee Policy
Famed marathon runner Pamela Anderson to lead newly formed Team Muddy Buddy Elite.
by Ross McGowan
April 1, 2014
For the third time in less than a year, Competitor Group, organizer and promoter of dozens of athletic events around the world, has made a significant announcement regarding how they plan to handle appearance fees for elite athletes.
“We have reconsidered our company’s position on appearance fees,” the company said in an official statement. “We will be channeling our funds away from elite competitors in our Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, and toward a newly constituted group of elite athletes for our REI Muddy Buddy Adventure Series.”
In October, 2013, Competitor Group announced they would no longer be paying elite distance runners appearance fees in advance of their races. Such appearance fees are often a crucial source of income for pro runners, many of whom race only twice a year, and may not otherwise have substantial sponsorship deals.
“Competitor Group is at it’s [sic] core a health and wellness company dedicated to promoting and enhancing an active lifestyle. Lifestyle is the key word, not Sport,” former Competitor Group CEO Scott Dickey wrote at the time on running commentator Toni Reavis’s website. “Rock n Roll marathons have always been about the journey, the commitment, the personal dedication required to train and finish a half or full marathon. We’re not about how fast you complete the race, we’re about the fact that you showed up on the start line and the commitment one has made to complete the journey.”
The decision sparked widespread protests from the small handful of Americans who actually pay attention to and care about elite distance running, prompting Competitor Group to reverse its decision in January, 2014.
“The executives heard the running community — our participants, our customers, our reason for being — loud and clear,” Tracy Sundlun, senior vice president for industry alliances with Competitor Group, said of the outcry. “We looked at who we are, who we represent in the industry, who we want to be and where we came from. We realized that last fall we didn’t strike the right balance in supporting the sport.”
A few months later, Competitor Group is once again trying a new approach, as Sundlun explained in an exclusive interview with LetsRun.com.
Pamela Anderson Getting Muddy Buddy Appearance Fees
“It’s true that we will no longer be paying appearance fees to elite runners in our Rock ‘n’ Roll series, but we remain as committed as ever to supporting and growing the sport in the community via our REI Muddy Buddy Adventure Series,” Sundlun said. “This is why we formed Team Muddy Buddy Elite, and have brought on Pamela Anderson to be the face of that team.”
Sundlun said that all of Competitor Group’s investors are very excited about the new emphasis on the Muddy Buddy Series.
“The Muddy Buddy races are a key area of strategic growth for our organization, and focusing our elite athlete efforts on that space is perfectly aligned with our core values.
“Men are going to flock to the Muddy Buddy races in droves with Pamela as our elite athlete,” said Sundlun.
“Plus, the timing couldn’t be better for a move like this. All the losers who threw a hissy fit last fall are now so busy crying about the USATF, Nike, and Alberto Salazar that this won’t even cross their radar.”
Later, Sundlun explained why he felt Anderson has the potential to be viewed as “the Michael Jordan of obstacle racing.”
“Pamela is the ideal leader of Team Muddy Buddy Elite. When she ran the New York Marathon last fall, it was an inspiration to so many of us. She barely trained, the only thing she set out to do was finish no matter how slowly she ran, and she drew a lot of attention to herself. The same could be said of almost every Muddy Buddy participant.”
“Times have changed. People no longer view sporting events as a venue for testing one’s limits or achieving one’s goals. Just because we’re called Competitor Group doesn’t mean we particularly care about competition.”
When asked whether he found any irony in that statement, Sundlun pressed back.
“Look, we live in a world where the definition of the word literally was officially changed to mean ‘figuratively.’ Our language no longer has any meaning, so I see no irony whatsoever in our company being called Competitor Group. What would you have us be called, Squeeze Every Penny Possible Out of Distance Running Group? That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.”
Ross McGowan is a lifelong runner who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. He ran track and cross-country at Cornell University, where he was coached by LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson. Ross and Robert continue to debate whether Ross’s inherent lack of ability or Robert’s poor coaching was primarily responsible for Ross’s mediocre career.