C’mon, Just Let ‘Em In

By Mario Fraioli

“I think the second problem is the lack of allowing other sponsors into the sport,” Brooks Beasts Danny Mackey told me recently. The rest of his answer to my question about the biggest problems facing the sport of track and field today was not only interesting, but it also echoed many of the same points made in this recent article by USA Track & Field president Vin Lananna. “Our incredible dependence upon one industry, the shoe companies and the apparel companies, is an unsustainable model,” Lananna told Reuters.

It’s good to see some momentum picking up in this regard from one of the sport’s more influential leaders. I’m curious to see where it goes, however, as USATF is sustained—and also handcuffed—by Nike, a company not known to play well with others when it comes to matters of sponsorship and logo placement. Trickling down to the individual athlete level, most every athlete making a living in the sport relies primarily on a shoe and apparel contract as their main source of income. As Lananna alluded to, this model needs to evolve—top to bottom—otherwise the sport will continue to miss opportunities and lose the interest of athletes, fans, and sponsors alike.

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.