Running shoe brands sue Nike at US Track and Field Trials
EUGENE – At least 200 runners gathered on a cool morning last week at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house across from Hayward Field.
Jesse Williams, director of sports marketing for Brooks Sports Inc., loudly announced the morning course and the t-shirts and knick-knacks awaiting the graduates.
They raced past Hayward, the legendary University of Oregon stadium adorned with huge black-and-white Swoosh-stamped posters of Nike co-founder and former OU coach Bill Bowerman. They have overtaken many other Swoosh recalls, as Nike is an official sponsor of the US Track and Field Trials which have been held in Eugene for the past two weeks and end today.
For Brooks, Saucony, Adidas, Asics, New Balance and other brands of running shoes
not named Nike, there was no escaping the omnipresence of the Swoosh during Olympic trials. But the other brands also knew there was no way to avoid Track Town USA for the quadrennial event.
“You have to be here,” Williams said in an interview last week. For runners, the track and field events at the Olympics are their Super Bowl. And they only come once every four years, which makes all that
makes the Olympics and Olympic Trials all the more critical to reach this crowd of potential customers.
Some of the nation’s biggest athletic fans filled the Hayward stands from June 21. High school and college coaches are also present, as are owners of specialty running stores.
And while the vast majority of athletes participating in the 10-day event wore
made. The smallest brands rented reception rooms – in hotels and fraternity houses –
to support their athletes and celebrate their selection to the US Olympic team.
They also want to avoid losing ground to Nike, regardless of the Swoosh’s lead in running shoe and apparel sales.
The Oregon-based company controls nearly 53 percent of the US $ 6.5 billion running shoe market and more than 65 percent of the US $ 750 million
running clothing market, according to Matt Powell, analyst at SportsOneSource. Among nine competitors, only Asics’ share in one or the other category exceeds the figures: almost 11% in footwear, around 15% in clothing.
Brooks therefore has the Delta Sigma Phi house, organizes races and distributes tchotchkes. Asics, Saucony and Adidas also requisitioned areas on the outskirts of the OU campus.
At the Wild Duck Café on the east side of campus, Saucony banners surround the popular hangout. Life-size posters of Saucony athletes plaster the windows. A black station wagon emblazoned with “Saucony” is located next to the sidewalk of the Wild Duck.
And on a recent night, the place was a boisterous party filled with runners, with logos of all types embroidered on the clothes.
“We don’t discriminate,” said Mark Bossardt, vice president of global sports marketing for Lexington, Massachusetts-based Saucony, with a smile. For proof, he pointed the finger at John Evans, director of sports marketing for New Balance, based in Boston.
“If you want to be involved in the industry, you have to be here,” Bossardt said. “It allows us to connect with influencers and show that you are a performance brand and that you are serious.”
Bossardt was in a jovial mood in part because, at the end of last week, Saucony had six athletes qualified for the Olympic team with the potential for four more. In Beijing four years ago, only one athlete represented the brand.
Nike, by far, had the most athletes competing at Trials and will have the most sponsored athletes on the Olympic team.
It’s okay, Bossardt says. “We are not in competition with Nike.”
While Nike is a global company involved in almost every sport imaginable, “we are a running company, just like Asics, just like Brooks, just like New Balance.”
Kevin Wulff, chief executive of Asics, also said his company was not in competition with Nike.
“We don’t really see them as the competition,” Wulff said. “We make some of the most technically advanced running shoes” and focus on specialty running retailers rather than general purpose shoe or sporting goods stores that often sell Nike.
The former Nike executive, however, dismissed the idea that Asics would not appeal to mainstream consumers. Major retailers, including Nordstrom, carry the brand, he said.
There was no way a brand, or maybe even small countries, couldn’t compete with Nike when it comes to the fan festival the company has set up next to Hayward Field in recent weeks.
three trapezoidal structures, covered with waterproof opaque plastic membranes and offering experiences designed to give the sensation of an athletic competition. A fourth building sold products. It was designed by Skylab Architecture of Portland.
Williams, Brooks’ marketing director, agreed that Nike was a ubiquitous brand during testing.
Brooks, based in Bothell, Wash., Has recruited around 20 employees to promote the brand. Despite Nike’s size and status as an official sponsor, it was clear that Brooks wasn’t comfortable conceding anything.
“They own everything inside the stadium,” he said. “We own everything outside the stadium.”
Williams and others have noted that Nike, for its vastness, has helped raise the profile of athletics.
But resentment against the Swoosh still boils from time to time.
Williams and Bossardt said event officials were too eager to cover up Olympic qualifiers with
Competitors are required to wear the clothing during the Olympic Games, but not at the Trials.
These competitors have been supported for years by the brands they represented in the competition – and they should have the option of continuing to wear their sponsor’s gear at the end of a big time, said Williams and Bossardt. .
Jill Geer, spokesperson for US Track and Field, dismissed the concerns, saying event volunteers were simply offering qualifiers the option of wearing team clothing.
“It has nothing to do with putting the Nike brand on people,” she said. “Nike is a long way from the awards gallery.”
Bossardt, who in addition to Saucony has worked in managing race categories for Reebok, Fila and Nike, smiled and rolled his eyes at the explanation.
“I’m not buying it,” he said.
He noted, however, that on Thursday evening, the three women’s 5,000-meter qualifiers were sponsored by brands other than Nike.
And all three refused to wear the clothes of the American team.
Meanwhile, also on Thursday night, a group of athletes qualified for the U.S. Track and Field team completed a lap of honor around Hayward Field, celebrating their Olympic qualification. The group of a dozen athletes included middle distance runners Alysia Montano and Nick Symmonds. All of the athletes in a photo provided by Nike appeared to be wearing Nike shoes.
“That’s what it’s about. This uniform,” high jumper Erik Kynard Jr. said in a press release from Nike. “That’s why I worked so hard.”