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By Chris Russell
Posted Monday, 20 February, 2006

I got an e-mail from one of the guys in my running club last week about a candy company that is launching a new energy bar and they were looking for athletes to sponsor it. They would give you lots of free logo-wear and in return you dress up in the gear whilst promoting positive platitudes about the product.

I went ahead and started filling out the application because free stuff is one of my favorite things. It would please my wife to have me cut down on my running-related overhead. Shoes, clothes, race fees, mileage, goop, pictures, doctors’ fees, therapy…it all adds up for such a simple sport.

They asked questions like “What were your major accomplishments last year?” I answered truthfully enough that I pulled off a couple 3rd place age group finishes, managed to qualify for Boston and got out of bed almost every day.

It struck me that I was probably not what they were looking for. They were probably looking for real athletes, not mid-pack Clydesdales. And this struck me as a tragic marketing error on their part because I’ve got a lot to offer!

First, let’s talk about real estate. How much advertising can you put on one of those scrawny little elites? It’s like writing on a grain of rice. Me on the other hand, I’ve got acres of surface area! You’ve got plenty of room to really express those detailed and subtle marketing messages that require a grand palette. The opportunities are darn near endless. If you want small results stick with your current plan, if you want big returns come scribble your brilliance on my grand tableau! The pun is fully intended when I tell you that we are looking at a huge bottom line!

In addition to the wide-open spaces, I’ve got contrast. These competitive athletes spend all their time outside training and competing. I’m lucky to squeeze in a workout early in the morning or late at night. I have an inside job. My body hardly ever sees the sun. As a result, I’ve got that opalescent, Gollum skin-tone that will make your logos really stand out! Yes, your reds will be redder and your blues will be magnificent. Finally, here is a surface that will bring the subtle and elegant nuances of your message into stark contrast.

Except for all that hair. But I’m willing to take one for the team there. We can turn it into a positive and rent my backspace to Gillette, Schick or Nair. Think of the possibilities! Frankly, I’m not worried about exposure. You can tattoo me all over. I wear a suit to work so no one’s going to see it.

While we’re on the topic of surface area, I’ve got a huge head too! My kids say it is square. I prefer majestic. There’s a big opportunity for your message on my swim cap at my next triathlon. Failing that, I’m willing to shave it too. I don’t think there will be much hair left soon anyway. I’m a living-breathing billboard for your success!

The viewing audience gets to see your product longer with me too. Those elites flash by at a sub-5 pace. I’m going to be trundling by at a much more viewer friendly speed and I’ve been known to stop occasionally to catch my breath. That’s more eyes for more time for you! I’m not kidding when I tell you that when I come out of the water in my Speedo, everyone stares. All in all it’s a much better return on your investment.

These other elite athletes are going to be harder to work with than I am. They need the money I just want free stuff. I have a job. You don’t have to worry about catching me doing something stupid with a starlet in Vegas. I hardly ever do anything except workout, eat, work and sleep. I’m low risk for a scandal. Unless that’s what you want…I’m willing to work with you!

I’m well spoken too! You ever see these commercials with those elite athletes? They have great pounding music. They show the elite athlete in various airborne athletic poses. Powerful MTV camera angles and cuts. They have the announcer voice over something intense. But, they hardly ever let the stud talk! If they do it’s some monosyllabic utterance like “Cool”. Even then the delivery is shaky.

Not me, I’m in sales! I spend all day trying to talk people out of money. I have to present to boards of directors and executives of companies. Nothing you could throw at me could possibly compare to those groups of angry, tightfisted people. I’m your spokes-model baby! Plug me in! Give me a quota! We can do business! It’s a win-win!

Now let’s talk about expanding your exposure across your whole product line. What do your elite athletes use, one pair of racing flats and a singlet? Have you checked the sales volumes lately? You don’t sell that many pairs of racing flats. You sell lots of those cushiony trainers. And whom do you sell them to? Mid-packers like me! With me you’ll have an opportunity to showcase your bread and butter products, not just those fringe offerings.

I’m a biking-swimming-running cornucopia of product placement opportunities! I dress in layers! Bring it on! I’ll wear it all and carry the rest. It doesn’t matter if you slow me down; I’m not going to win anyhow. I train in New England. I need all the clothes you can give me. I’ll run in a space suit if you’ve got one.

Which brings me to my next point. What about all those great curative products you guys push? Who buys that stuff? Not the elites, they have trainers. This is another huge product opportunity for you. I’m constantly injured so I can hawk all those creams and wraps and splints for you. I’ve already got a closet full of your junk. I’m an expert! I’m willing to take some more of those expensive personal care products off your hands and share them with the public.

As a quick aside, another product that I’m an expert at is the whole portable sanitation business. I can pontificate without end on the pros and cons of all manners of Port-Johns. Go ahead; slap my action photo right there on the door! “When the experts need to go, they choose Sani-Go brand hand sanitizers!” Put me in coach, I’m ready!

Here’s another great opportunity. I’ve been fighting the battle of the bulge my entire adult life and I’m here to assure you that (for a nominal endorsement fee) I will stand up and claim I’ve finally found success with your weight loss products. Who are John and Jane Q. Public going to believe; a 130-pound speedster or me ? I think we both know the answer!

While we are on the subject, why limit the endorsements to sports related paraphernalia? I’m a great buy for advertising your food products too! I’m not just talking about PowerBars and Gu. I’m talking about Hot Dogs, Pizza and mixed nuts. How many of those elites are willing to eat a plate of Italian Sausage prior to the race? I am! Bring it on! Then I’ll hold up your stomach curatives as I’m coughing them up at the 10 mile mark! It’s an excellent, well-rounded marketing strategy? Don’t you think?

I know what you’re thinking. You think these elites are well known and get all the spotlights, whereas nobody knows whom I am. That’s where you’re wrong. I’m extremely well known. I hear people talking about me at all the races. Things like; “Here comes that guy who never shuts up, let’s move.” And “Oh crap, it’s Chris!” For the right deal I can give you access to that star power, Mr. Sponsor.

If you’re still not convinced I’ve got one last deal sweetener. If you give me your endorsement I’ll commit to throwing some sort of fit in front of the cameras at Boston this year. And while I’m writhing on the ground I’ll stare into the lens, hold up your product and say “If it wasn’t for (your name here) I might have died!”

How can you pass? I’ll be waiting for your calls and watching the fax machine for offers. By the way, I could use a new bike.

See you out there!
C-,

Cool Running Note:
Chris has just finished writing his first book. The Mid-Packer’s Lament is a series of short stories on long distance running, racing and the human comedy inherent in all sports enthusiasts, but prevalent in the mid-pack. This is a book for runners and wannabe runners. There are stories about training, eating, special places and special races. There are stories about the accidental athlete in all of us and the stupid things we do for even amateur endeavors. Whether you are a weekend mid-pack runner or a competitive club runner, you’ll find something thought provoking and amusing that you can relate to in the Mid-Packer’s Lament. Cool Running encourages you to buy the book. It can be ordered directly from Amazon

 

 

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