Sponsorship in Athletics: Something Needs To Shift

By Mario Fraioli |
Alysia Montaño with her daughter Linnea. Photo: alysiamontano.com

This New York Times op-ed (and video), written and produced by Lindsay Crouse, was published on May 12. It ripped Nike for not guaranteeing female athletes a salary during pregnancy and early maternity despite advertising campaigns that spotlight “women at all stages of their careers, from childhood to motherhood.”

The piece, which prominently features Olympians Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher, explains that women have had sponsorship payments reduced because of pregnancies and that there is language in current Nike athlete contracts that says the brand can reduce pay “for any reason” if an athlete doesn’t meet a specific performance threshold.

I’m glad to see one of athletics’ dirtiest secrets aired out. Unfortunately, it’s part of a MUCH bigger industry-wide issue—it’s not just a Nike problem or a pregnant female athlete problem. As the article mentions, athletes are not employees of the brands they represent and most don’t receive health insurance or benefits from their sponsors. They’re independent contractors and are often taken advantage of because there aren’t laws in place to protect them. The industry needs to shift the paradigm and Nike, as its biggest brand, has the power to lead the charge. (more…)

Podcast: Episode 51 with Scott Gravatt, Jeremy Bresnen, and Pam Hess

By Mario Fraioli |

“Everybody runs. It’s the original. You go to an elementary school at lunch time and everybody is running. It’s intrinsic to us. And we lose that, whether we don’t make the track team, whatever it ends up being, we lose that and I think that’s a shame. And I think as a community and as an industry and everything we need to get back to this idea of ‘run a block and a half, and then run five blocks, and then run 10 blocks.’ And just that alone is amazing.”

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I’m excited to share a roundtable discussion I hosted last November at The Loop Running Supply in Austin, Texas, with Scott Gravatt, who is the run specialty sales director at Nike, Jeremy Bresnan, the co-founder of Ciele Athletics, and Pam Hess, who is the co-founder, along with her husband Ryan, of The Loop.

We covered quite a bit of ground in this discussion, which centered around running culture, what that is exactly, how it’s evolved over the years, and where it’s heading. There was talk about the running industry, the rise of smaller brands like Ciele, the influence of bigger ones like Nike, and how they can all co-exist in an increasingly crowded space; we got into the sport of running, the activity of running, and the lifestyle of running, how those things are all very different and also where they intersect. Finally, we dove into the importance of running specialty shops to local culture and community, the importance of storytelling, the role of athletes, and a whole lot more.


Do Running Shoes Need Regulation?

By Mario Fraioli |
Photo: Nike

The New York Times dropped this piece last Wednesday, saying that their comprehensive analysis of self-reported Strava data “suggests that, in a race between two marathoners of the same ability, a runner wearing Vaporflys would have a real advantage over a competitor not wearing them.” Runner’s World followed up with this reaction and Sean Ingle of The Guardian had something to say too. “But now [that] we know how well the shoes work, is it time to power down their afterburners?” Ingle poses at the end of his piece. The IAAF says not so fast.

“We need evidence to say that something is wrong with a shoe,” Yannis Nikolaou, a spokesman for the IAAF, told The Times. “We’ve never had anyone to bring some evidence to convince us.”  (more…)