Women’s Versus Men’s Pay In Trail And Ultrarunning

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by the Trail Sisters’ Gina Lucrezi.]

Gender inequality. It’s one of the longest-standing debates the human race endures. From as far back as anyone can remember, men and women have had their supposed roles and duties, which in turn has decided their societal value and worth. In a number of professional sports, gender-based pay discrepancy is common. This 2016 Newsweek article compares women’s versus men’s pay differences in professional soccer, tennis, golf, and basketball, and it also highlights a few female athlete outliers who are paid more than men. The book Daughters of Distance by Vanessa Runs contains a good summary of gender-based pay differences in several endurance sports; back in 2015, we published the relevant excerpt from that book here on iRunFar and hosted a discussion about women’s versus men’s pay in athletics.

It’s 2017, and the demand for equality is getting louder: equal standards, equal opportunity, equal pay, equal respect. The United States women’s national ice hockey team and the United States women’s national soccer team are examples of women standing up for what they feel they deserve and are due. The U.S. women’s ice hockey team has declared a holdout until receiving increased wages and support from their governing organization, USA Hockey, and the U.S. women’s soccer team has hired lawyers to help them fight the battle for equal pay with the U.S.’s soccer governing body, the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The rapid growth of trail and ultrarunning has also meant a recent increase in athlete marketing within our sport. What this means is that brands utilize and promote top-level athletes as influencers to the consumer market in hopes of bettering their chances for sales. This includes athlete imagery, advertising campaigns, social-media posts, videos, in-person events, and even product-specific endorsements.

For readers who don’t know me, I’m very involved in the trail and ultrarunning community. I work within the industry, compete at a sponsorship level, and have many relationships with runners at the top level, especially in the U.S. These relationships have led to many conversations revolving around equal compensation and opportunity for women and men. As an advocate for women in our sport, I have become curious to learn and compare differences between female and male top-level trail runner/ultrarunner compensation/benefits. My goals with this article have been to find out about women’s versus men’s elite athlete compensation and contractual standards to see if there are gender-based differences and, if there are, to create conversation and action around community expectations and company practice.

To do this, I created a nine-question survey about sponsorship salaries, contract lengths, and perspectives on marketing values. I sent it out to 50 top-level women (28 in the USA and 22 in western Europe) and 62 top-level men (30 in the USA and 32 in western Europe). iRunFar Senior Editor Meghan Hicks and I worked together to choose men and women along a wide but comparable-between-genders spectrum who have had national-level and international-level performances, who have ‘celebrity’/social-media status, and who participate in a variety of kinds of trail and ultrarunning (like road ultrarunning, shorter-distance trail running, and more). Respondents participated anonymously in the survey.

I can feel your curiosity building, so I’ll jump into the survey results.

Survey Questions and Results

A total of 34 women (22 USA women and 12 western European women, 68% of those to whom we sent the survey) and 33 men (19 USA men and 14 western European men, 53% of those to whom we sent the survey) chose to participate in the survey. I’ve placed the results in graph form for an easier comparison. Most of the questions and answers are pretty straightforward, but I’ll comment on the questions with the largest differences.

Trail Sisters Survey Question 2 - Other/cash sponsorships

Trail Sisters Survey Question 3 - Cash sponsorships

Trail Sisters Survey Question 4 - Annual income

Take a moment to let this result set in. Of the athletes who participated in the survey, 71% of women make $10,000 or less per year, whereas 71% of men make over $10,000 per year.

Ironically, right now the fastest-growing consumer demographic in the outdoor industry is women. According to Outside Magazine’s Stephanie Pearson, “Women count for 63 percent of the spending on activewear in the U.S., with huge growth each year…” This means that, in the next few years, you are going to witness a ton of marketing strategies and campaigns pushing female-specific, her-friendly, she-pleaser materials and activities. For more interesting insight on the current state of women’s roles in the outdoor-sports industry, check out the following articles on Racked, SGB Media, and the Huffington Post.

I find it quite interesting how valuable women are when it comes to being key consumers, but that value is quickly lost when it comes to compensating them for their equal efforts alongside male teammates and counterparts.

Trail Sisters Survey Question 5 - Stipend types

Trail Sisters Survey Question 6 - Gear only athlete

Trail Sisters Survey Question 7 - Contract length

Trail Sisters Survey Question 8 - Income value

The next question I want to focus on deals with the athlete’s perceived value of their worth. I wanted to know what women and men thought their results, social influence, celebrity, etc., should be valued at.

Trail Sisters Survey Question 9 - Preferred pay

That is, 49% of female survey respondents felt as though they deserved no more than $10,000 per year, whereas 15% of male respondents felt as though they deserved no less than $10,000 per year.

The majority of women who responded to the survey don’t value themselves for more than $10,000 per year. The male survey respondents seem to have no trouble valuing themselves highly, and, according to survey results, are being rewarded with higher pay. I have to admit, I was baffled at the results for this question and wonder if there are deeper-rooted gender issues at hand here.

Deeper-Rooted Gender Issues in Athletics

During this project, I had the chance to speak beyond the survey with some female and male potential respondents about their thoughts, wants, and fears–these were potential survey respondents who chose to interact one-on-one with me beyond the confines of the anonymous survey. Some women expressed to me that they were excited to hear about the article I proposed to write and were willing to provide information. Obviously they requested that I keep it confidential. They thanked me for my bravery and the noise I was about to create, as this would hopefully lead to more conversation and change for financial equality.

When speaking with potential male respondents, I received a mixed bag. Some were super excited to participate in this survey, but others were fearful. Concerns of sharing their stipend/salary information could result in a pay cut because of a potential balancing act. There were also fears of the public’s reaction to the results. What would consumers and fans think?

My original intent was to solely display the results of any financial inequality between the pay of top-level male and females–which exists in trail and ultrarunning at least according to the results of this small survey. I couldn’t help notice an even larger issue… a fear of rocking the boat.

Women want equality, but very few are willing to stand up and ask for it publicly. I get it, it’s hella’ scary to address an issue which has been made a ‘taboo’ topic, but if you never voice your thoughts and needs, you will never get what you think you deserve. Sure, some people will say no, or will disagree, but who wants to team up with people or organizations who don’t believe in male and female equality. (Did I mention it’s 2017?)

Here’s what I think: women, don’t be afraid to make a statement! You are strong and have the ability to control what you deserve. I’m hopeful to help us all by writing this article, but I cannot fight an equality battle all on my own. Ladies, take a stand for yourselves!

As for the men, just because there is a push for financial balance when both male and female athletes achieve the same standard, that doesn’t have to mean you will receive a pay cut. Maybe company budgets should just include enough to cover both sexes in the first place–and a man can be just as strong an advocate for this as a woman. Additionally, supporting your fellow female friends in gaining financial equality can benefit you, too. You are going to have many more supporters and fans on your side if they know you are pro equality. Just sayin’.

Let’s Have a Conversation

As a run-industry professional, sponsored runner, and friend of the community, I really hope that everyone who reads this article can take the time to digest it, and then create conversation regarding their thoughts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I look forward to hearing those opinions on what the trail and ultrarunning industry and community can do to address these issues moving forward.

One thing we want to mention, whether it’s trail running or road running or tennis or golf or whatever sport, most people don’t receive any remuneration. Period. However, some do as ambassadors and inspirations, at least to some of the others in the sport. Since this is the case in trail and ultrarunning, this article seeks to take a look at the difference in support between genders.

And please note, there can be no finger pointing at any single entity, as it takes everyone involved to create change. With that being said, if you want to get involved, here are a few things you can do.

  • Share this article with your friends to create more conversation.
  • Read up on your favorite company’s practices and initiatives. If you can’t find their position on sponsored-athlete pay, politely ask them. See what they are doing to provide equal standards and opportunity to both men and women. If you don’t like what you read/see, write them a constructive note!
  • Support companies who provide gender pay equality with your buying power as a consumer.
  • Support and empower athletes to use their voices to speak up for equality and against inequality.
  • Cheer as hard for your favorite female athletes as you do your male ones–follow them on their social-media channels, give them a yell and a high five at races, watch and read their interviews on the internet, and more.

Here are a couple more questions related to the survey results that I want to field to you as a reader. I’d love to know what you think. As noted by Outside Magazine and other publications, women are valuable for their spending potential, but why do they lose value when it comes to being compensated for achieving the same standards as men–in many professional sports, and potentially here in trail and ultrarunning? What were your thoughts when reading the financial value men and women placed on themselves?

[Editor’s Note: Gender issues are always a touchy subject. We invite you to participate in a discussion in the comments section of this article, but kindly do so in a constructive way. Dissenting opinions and debate are always welcome on iRunFar, but we require you to express yourself respectfully. Have a look at our comment policy before you comment if you have any questions. Additionally, comments pass through a moderation process that is sometimes automatic and at other times manual. Thus, there may be a delay in the publishing of your comment. We are additionally grateful to Mauri Pagliacci, François Grenier, and Jenny Davis who helped us with translations of survey materials into multiple languages. Thank you!]

There are 114 comments

  1. Andrew

    Interesting debate
    On the soccer front I have watched Man City men play and Man City Ladies
    Man city men – 55,000 in the crowd say average £30 per ticket – £1.65m plus all the other money spent
    Man City women ~ 2000 in the crowd say average £15 per ticker – £30k
    Man City Women have Carly Lloyd playing for them who I know has been pushing for better pay equality
    The economics is pretty clear in the above scenario.
    The women’s soccer was more exciting to watch!

      1. shawn

        I agree that women’s futbol is more exciting to watch. I wish I could explain why people won’t pay the same ticket prices, but the same is certainly true throughout the NCAA too.

        1. Boston Chris

          But that’s the point, right? I presume all these sponsors believe these men inspire more purchases. It’s all about the almighty dollar – it’s not sexism, it’s capitalism.

  2. Markus

    This is a great article. Thank you for doing this survey.
    I was always wondering how much these so called professional trail runners are getting payed.

      1. Gina

        Hey CMYK! Would have loved to sample a larger group and receive more responses…but it was a tricky topic which made a lot of people nervous. Thanks so much for reading!

        1. cmyk

          Oh absolutely, its always extremely hard to do this kind of research. Thank you so much for working so hard on this! Would irunfar be interested in opening up this survey to the community? Obviously the quality of the data would go down a bit, but I’d be curious in even the informal results.

  3. Brian D. Purcell

    Your survey question on how much salary would they like to be paid by their sponsor really isn’t shocking and not really informative. In general when you ask a person how much should they be paid for the job they do, most say a number a little more than what they make now. They certainly wouldn’t say they should make less, and it feels uncomfortable saying a number that is far above their current salary.

    You stated that 29% of men make less than $10,000, so you’d expect the percent that say they should make less than that to be less, which it was at 15%.

    71% of women make less than $10,000, and 49% say they should be making less than that. Both male and female results confirm the error in asking the question. They aren’t going to respond with an answer much more than what they currently make, so the question doesn’t really address their view of their self-worth. It just means they’re not greedy.

    There certainly is an issue in the work place that women in general might not be seeking top dollar when asking for salary compensation (I’ll let psychologists argue why that might be). A better question to ask the athletes is to remove the question from themselves and say how much salary should a top-tier, mid-tier, and low-tier athlete be expected to receive. When you remove the question from themselves, I suspect they will be more forthcoming of the true numbers.

    1. Alex

      This is a pretty straightforward analysis to do – just fit a simple model that predicts the salary “wish” based on the current actual salary, then take the residual variance in “wish” and ask whether gender has any association with it. I could do this for you if you wanted to send me the data…

    2. Natalie Wyer

      I agree with your (Brian’s) prediction that both men and women will anchor on their current pay – the interesting question is whether men adjust upwards more than do women. Lots of research with other populations suggests that they would. I don’t know if the sample is large enough to reliably detect a difference, but it would be interesting to find out. Alex is correct that it’s a pretty simple analysis. It’d actually be nice to see that in this domain – given that the women in question are already challenging cultural stereotypes by virtue of being competitive athletes – the conventional finding doesn’t hold (the frustrating thing about standard inferential statistics is that a non-difference isn’t as interpretable as a difference, but that’s getting well beyond the point of this discussion!)

  4. Mark

    On contentious topics like this, I like to ask myself some simple questions. On this topic: What kind of society do I want to live in? How would I like the sport that I love to treat the issue?

    For me, the answer to both is simple: one in which pay discrepancies are not associated with the gender of someone whatsoever. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one gender doesn’t make more than the other on average, but rather that gender wasn’t the determining factor in that difference.

    I love the article and the data. Thank you!

  5. Graham King

    Very interesting, thanks! What surprised me most was how little trail and ultra athletes earn. When Boris Berian’s contract was made public last year (Nike / New Balance lawsuit) it showed he gets $125k / year for three years, plus performance bonuses. I naively assumed other professional runners would make something similar. How wrong I was!

    The silver lining is that most of the people we admire are still folks like us, with similar constraints, with jobs and families. If they can, maybe we can too.

    1. Gina

      Hey Graham! Yes…very different pay scales between road/track and trail/ultra. Most elites have a day job and their running income is secondary. And yes, we are all the same out on those trails…just enjoying the run and taking in the views :) I’m a believer that if you want something bad enough, you can obtain it. Never say never, right?! Thanks for reading!

  6. Amelia

    Thanks for writing this and taking the time to do this kind of survey! I think it’s an important conversation, and a step towards transparency. I think it would benefit from a much larger sample size, as using %’s on a graph when it’s only ~70 participants can be semi-misleading. Absolute numbers would be a better gauge in this scenario (i.e., 1 woman gets paid over $100k, instead of 5%, etc).

    1. Gina

      Hey Amelia! I hear ya. Getting a large amount of people to participate in something this “taboo” is tough…but I can understand your interest in wanting absolute numbers. Thanks for reading!

      1. Amelia

        I can only imagine what a daunting task that was, so thanks for taking it on! Hopefully it opens a door for more transparency, discussion, and future surveys!

  7. Travis Macy

    “The majority of women who responded to the survey don’t value themselves for more than $10,000 per year. The male survey respondents seem to have no trouble valuing themselves highly, and, according to survey results, are being rewarded with higher pay. I have to admit, I was baffled at the results for this question and wonder if there are deeper-rooted gender issues at hand here.”

    I think this excerpt is particularly concerning and instructive. Whether it’s UltraRunning, business, or life, less teach our daughters and students to value themselves and their contributions.

  8. John Vanderpot

    The numbers are sort of surprisingly low — both the number of respondents and what they’re earning — but certainly they give us something to work with, a starting point…as the fine folks over at United Airlines would no doubt tell you, corp.s are probably more inclined to listen closely to consumers now than ever, let ’em hear it?

    JV

  9. Joel

    My comments doesn’t go to the question of what MEN vs WOMEN deserve but more how individuals value themselves or are valued by their sponsors.

    One factor I don’t see addressed anywhere on the surface of this survey is whether participants are full-time runners ONLY (sponsorship money is the majority of their income) vs those with additional jobs/responsibilities or sources of income on the side. Many of the younger runners are still part-time or full-time students. Many others have full-time jobs in different fields entirely or are stay-at-home moms or dads. I’m guessing a high-level, sponsored athlete who also has a full-time, decent paying job is probably more likely to downplay their sponsorship value than someone who derives the majority of their income from sponsorship related sources. If we look at the pool of survey participants in this light, what additional trends/if any will we find? Is it possible that more of the women have stable employment on the side? Are more of the men going all-in from a time and resources perspective in pursuit of their running career?

    This question ins’t entirely meaningless from the sponsor’s perceived value of the athlete either. Setting race performances aside, on average (definitely there are exceptions, no question) I’d assume someone who is a full-time athlete ONLY will have more time and incentive for social media, appearances, interviews…etc. and thus more potential exposure and value to their sponsor.

    Am I off base here? Seems like reasonable questions/considerations to me that would help clarify more of the story on all of this.

    1. Fitzgerald

      Your post raises an interesting issue about full-time vs. part-time runners. Many podium finishers you are seeing in the mens’ field are full-time runners without full-time jobs while most women podium finishers have full-time jobs. Also, worth looking into…does it take more money to pull elite men away from road racing while women would are not pulled either way? Lastly, there are studies that women are less likely to negotiate salaries in the workplace and advocate less for raises. This likely spills over to ultras.

  10. Sarah

    In regards to the disparity between the percentage of revenue generated by female v. male buyers and the average compensation for female v. male athletes, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a difference in the way that brand endorsement is viewed according to gender. Does the public feel like a male athlete who wears a certain brand of shoe/clothing must know more or mean more than female who chooses to wear that same brand? More specifically, is the male endorsement somehow viewed as more legitimate than the female endorsement because society tends to view males as superior athletes? Therefore, even if women are spending more on athletic apparel than men, retailers may feel like a male sponsored athlete will convince more people overall to buy their product because male athletes know more about what constitutes a good product by virtue of their being the better athlete. I in no way agree with this statement, but I feel like it may at least be part of the reason for the continued gap in pay between male and female sponsored athletes.

  11. Sandi Nypaver

    “The majority of women who responded to the survey don’t value themselves for more than $10,000 per year.” After giving this some thought, I think there’s two parts to this. One part being that not enough women know their worth, but on the other hand I think salary talk is so little talked about (often because it’s forbidden in contracts) that many women have no idea how much male athletes are actually making. I think this article will help change that, so thank you! :)

    On another note, I’ve often been left very frustrated after talking to team managers who seem to most often be men. I know many men that follow women’s trail running very closely, but a couple of the team manages I talked to obviously did not. It was even worse when talking about international competition. One guy didn’t think TNF 50 was competitive this past year because he didn’t know some of the top women- 3 out of the top 4 were from countries outside the US, but those women are some of the worlds best right now! I think team managers that don’t follow women’s running closely may be part of the problem as well.

    Lastly, I think there’s been a great trend in people wanting to support companies that are doing the right things- caring about the planet, fair trade, partnering with Clean Sport Collective, etc. It would be cool if we knew what companies believed in supporting female and male athletes equally. For me personally, that would without a doubt influence what companies I choose to buy from. I know rabbit supports their athlete equally, though of course they are very small compared to some of the major companies supporting runners. There has to be other companies out there that are willing to show and say they believe in supporting their female runners just as much as their male runners.

    Again, a heartfelt thanks for writing this article! :)

    1. Buzz Burrell

      This is a very reasonable question, but one that cannot be answered definitively. I’m not a “main” sponsor, but for UD and I think most in the MUT market, there is no pay scale. Our company definitely has a gender-equal pay scale for Customer Service, Dealer Service, Designer/Developer, Graphics, and other jobs which have objectively accountable duties, but athletes are individuals that cannot (should not?) be objectively quantified. So we talk person-person with each athlete and see what works for us both, which could be entirely different for every company depending on where they are in the market and where they want to go.

      1. Jim

        You hit the nail on the head Buzz. I don’t think the gender pay equality argument works when discussing sponsorship. Sponsors are concerned with ROI when dealing with athletes, not equitable wages like they would when dealing with employees with quantifiable job duty metrics like you mentioned above. If Salomon thinks Killian will generate $200k in sales, $200k that otherwise might not have occurred, they’ll have no problem paying him a large sum of money to represent their brand. If Anna Frost could produce the same results, they would pay her the same…if they didn’t, somebody else would. Free market principles will always sort this out in the long run.

        Interesting topic. Well researched and written, I’m just not sure you can apply it to matters of sponsorship.

  12. Fitzgerald

    Would be interesting to see a breakdown of male/female participants in ultras and male/female purchasing of ultra related goods. Gisele Bundchen makes far more than the top male model because at the end of the day women spend more on fashion. Women generate more sales in the fashion industry so they are compensated more.

    It’s all economics and sometimes economics rubs people the wrong way emotionally.

  13. Andrew

    Thanks for writing about this topic. I wonder if some of this has to do with the way that these companies distribute their money and being forced by economics to choose between representation and compensation.

    For example, La Sportiva lists 8 women and 6 men as their mountain running ambassadors (http://www.sportiva.com/ambassadors/index/index/discipline/Mountain%20Running%C2%AE%20Team/)

    Assuming they have unequal pay and limited resources, would it be better to drop some women and raise the other women’s pay? Or maintain the high representation of women at the expense of equal pay?

    (Hopefully the pay is equal, but your graphs make me wonder?!)

  14. Buzz Burrell

    Great story! I very much appreciated the research here – most ultrarunning articles consist of one guy jotting down whatever was on his mind in the moment – this was a significant effort, with thought-provoking data and questions.

    A few of my thoughts (from someone who is a sponsor :-)

    * The pay scale should be gender-equal for objective mileposts – this includes race prize money and bonus’s – I think it mostly is in our sport (not in Soccer!)
    * However, annual stipends are “market-based”. Guys don’t get paid the same relative to each other let alone to the gals; there is nothing objective about determining the stipend, and this amount floats all over the scale.
    * The Survey shows ultra gals on average get paid less. My very unscientific guesses as to why are: 1) They have smaller egos and ask for less; 2) They have smaller egos and aren’t clamoring for attention on social media (which actually works); 3) They lead more balanced lives and instead of living in a coat closet and becoming amazing ultra runners are doing other things.
    * An interesting note might be the King and Queen of ultrarunning: If Kilian asked for it, a car company would probably give him $100k tomorrow. Emilie is equally terrific, as anyone who has met her (or raced her) would attest, yet she would not get the same offer. It’s not Male/Female, it’s star quality, which as I said, is highly variable and subjective, and which either gender may or may not happen to possess.
    * An interesting sidenote, is on Sunday Mary Keitany pocketed $305,000 just in prize money at the London Marathon; with sponsor and other bonus’s probably a half million dollars cash. (Of course, she had to first raise two children, then throw down an insane 1:06:54 first Half, but the money for Women is there if the market is).

    So again, good story, good questions to consider, and all the Comments above are really good!

    (Disclosure: the author of this story does some work for Ultimate Direction. We actually decide this very topic – how much to pay new Ambassadors – at meetings. There could be 5 guys discussing it, but Gina is also there, which means there is NO doubt in anyone’s mind the gals are going to get the same as the guys! So “Thank You” to all the strong women out there – we all need you, and you are very appreciated).

    1. SageCanaday

      Hey Buzz, how come UD came out with 3 (or was it 4) Signature Series race vests (all named after sponsored Male athletes on the roster) while only coming out with 1 women’s design?

      While direct ROI is hard to measure in many instances (but some social media stats/influence are more objective obviously), there is for sure a lot of personal bias in what someone in marketing might think “market value” or “star quality” really is.

      Relative performances (at least on roads and measured courses) are much easier to evaluate: a women who runs a 2:30 marathon is a far superior (and more elite) runner than a male that runs a 2:19:00. That should be easy to see for most.

      But historically people in positions of power call the shots and pass around money where they see fit. A lot of times people get jobs/sponsorship not based on their actual merit, hard work or performances… “it’s who you know not what you know.” Networking gets people jobs in a lot of these cases. It’s like trying to join an old frat club sometimes. I don’t think that’s usually very fair.

      We see discrepancy in prize money winnings for men vs. women at some trail-ultra races still. Unbelievable.

      So you say “market based” stipends, but I’d argue that women often get the short end of the stick more often than not….and that often comes down to a bias that may be deeply rooted in gender discrimination and prejudice by an individual manager. I believe there has been a lack of equal opportunity for women and minorities in many faucets of life – and there needs to be programs (like affirmative action and Title IX in colleges) in place for them to even compete on the same playing field. They are still playing “catch up.”

      This has historically been a problem…the ultra-trail running community is certainly not immune to it (in fact I’d say that there is more discrimination against women in ultra-trail running compared to pro road running)

      1. shawn

        And the women’s hydration vest is the Jenny Jurek signature model, which sure makes it sound like it was a package deal for the couple. Not sure why they haven’t signed any other top women and given them a signature design too.
        (btw, I’m a guy but the bottle tops in Scott’s model vest are rubbing my nipples off, so I may have to switch to Jenny’s version which has the bottles almost at the shoulders.)

    2. Ratjaska wladriminisk

      So what is star quality? Doesnt that come from what the “ideal” should be? And as long as ideal is the man the women will always be second class.

  15. Caroline Boller

    Thank you for writing about this important topic, Gina!

    Currently, I’m without a shoe sponsor. Several companies have offered me sponsorships that are essentially product-only, which I have declined. Here is what I have asked for when speaking with potential sponsors: without assigning any dollar value, I simply ask to be treated similarly to their other team members who are at a similar level within the sport. So far, no takers! In the meantime, many male athletes have been signed by the same shoe companies I have been trying to work with. Perhaps they are accepting product-only deals. Or not. I have no idea.

    1. Gina

      Hey Caroline! Thanks so much for reading the article and sharing you thoughts. It is disturbing to hear no shoe companies are willing to compensate you for the achievements and value you bring to the sport and their brand. Keep strong to your value, and let it fuel your performances. Being an outlier has it’s benefits, and someone will surely notice! Thanks again for reading and commenting!

      1. Caroline Boller

        Thanks Gina.

        I can understand how for some women (and possibly men too, though your stats certainly seem to suggest this isn’t a big issue), an athlete may appreciate a sense of ‘validation’ in being picked up by a team, albeit with very little in the return except some free gear. I would caution against this. I think it does a disservice not only to that individual, but also to equality in the sport. If the external perception is that a team has a fairly equal number of men and women so surely they are treated the same (though your stats clearly indicate otherwise), what incentive is there for change?

        1. Adam W. Chase

          If, however, the athlete approaches a sponsor at a point in the season when a team’s budget has been fully committed for that fiscal period, there may well be merit in joining the squad for the external perception to which you refer and the benefit of being a part of a team that resonates with the athlete. This is especially the case when doing so allows the athlete to be embraced by a sense of team camaraderie and the opportunity to prove herself or himself worthy of a salary for the next season.

            1. Adam W. Chase

              It would make be very happy to agree with you, Caroline, because that would mean that team budgets are growing or, at least, remaining steady. Let’s hope that’s the case for 2018!

        2. Amelia Boone

          Caroline – I 100% agree with you on this one. If we devalue ourselves as athletes, and sign on just to be associated with a brand, or because it’s the only option at the moment, then the sponsors have no incentive to pay in the future. It pains me that sponsors haven’t been receptive, and I imagine it’s such a difficult spot to be in on your end. But know that the community has your back, and I hope more athletes take a stand like you have.

          1. Caroline Boller

            Thanks Amelia! It’s actually been kind of liberating.

            Plus, the ultra community has proven to be amazing once again: both Asics (Rob McDearmon) as well as running store Up and Running in El Paso TX (Mark Dorion) have generously sent me some shoes, asking absolutely nothing in return. I’m indebted to them and grateful for their generosity.

            1. Eugene Smith

              Mark Dorian is a true class act! I love his passion for the sport and known him personally, and it comes at no surprise to read about your relationship to him. I hope you soon receive the equitable support you deserve from a sponsor, but until then, it is pretty amazing to know that there are supporters within the community who will rally to keep you going. Cheers.

  16. Adam W. Chase

    Salomon US only added women to our team roster for the 2017 season: Megan Kimmel, Courtney Dauwalter, Addie Bracy and Corrine Malcolm, and we couldn’t be more proud to have them! The gender mix has nothing to do with it. These were simply the most qualified athletes who reached out at the time we were selecting the squad. How much an athlete receives in the form of payment, travel stipend and gear has more to do with who they are than anything and, as the survey shows, performance accounts for a lot of that determination. I agree with Buzz that these decisions are gender neutral. As they should be.

  17. Amy

    I have been wondering if it would help to separate the mens and womens fields at top trail races to give women more attention and in turn more sponsorship $$$. In road racing, women race separate from men and women seem to attract more equal attention and more equal sponsorship. In the Boston Marathon, for example, Desi was able to lead the entire race. Any sponsor would find it worth their while to have their logo emblazoned on Desi’s singlet. In contrast, at Western States and other big trail races, the men are front and center. Anna, Emelie, Magda, Kaci and others are buried back in the pack.

    When I watched Life in a Day by Billy Yang, this really hit me. There were no shots of the 4 very talented women featured (Magda, Kaci, Devon and Anna Mae) leading the pack. Furthermore, all 4 women — 4 of the top runners in our sport — have to have day jobs other than running.

    1. Jim

      I’m not sure separating the field would make a difference. Boston Marathon is televised around the world. Only prolonged footage you’ll see of WSER is if a social media personality (Ethan Newberry, Billy Yang) show up with a camera. Again, this all goes back to ROI. If a women’s hydration vest with Kaci’s, Magda’s (whoever) name on it sold as well as the Rob Krar branded vest, that female would be paid equally. If she is not paid equally, than there is an argument to be made, but I’ve not seen the evidence supporting equal return between men and women’s product sales. What is the gender make up of this sport at the amateur level? What I see at races is that men make up 65-70% of the field. Certainly not scientific data, but if that is remotely close to being true, it would also reaffirm why manufacturers target male sponsorship and male products; much bigger market. Let’s not kid ourselves, manufacturers are in the business to make money.

      It’s not a perfect world or a perfect system, but the numbers don’t lie.

  18. Amanda

    After reading this article earlier today, I emailed the companies I buy products from- NB, Brooks, Patagonia, Hoka- and have so far gotten the run-around on this issue. I simply asked their policy on paying sponsored athletes, and if they have a stance on gender equality. They keep referring me to someone else or trying to be very vague. I’m pretty disappointed, as I’d expect them to be transparent about such things in 2017. But perhaps that’s too optimistic.

    Props to Buzz for posting very openly about UD. Not that I think it’s a perfect system, but at least it’s transparent. I definitely appreciate Sage’s comments as well. A healthy debate! Definitely progress compared to what has been happening (or not) thus far.

    Interesting to note that Emelie wrote about this a month ago in a post- about how prize money was distributed unequally between men and women winners. Definitely a worthwhile read, especially the comments. https://www.facebook.com/tinaemelie/photos/a.311959678918108.73827.311936945587048/1245799845534082/?type=3&theater

  19. Joshua

    Two questions that come to mind, after reading the article and others comments:

    1. Should sponsorship money be based on market value? (I think it has to be.)

    2. Is the market value of female athletes being undervalued?

    I would like to know the answer to this question. I think we would need some inside knowledge from the sponsoring companies.

    How do they judge market value?

  20. Scott

    “As for the men, just because there is a push for financial balance when both male and female athletes achieve the same standard, that doesn’t have to mean you will receive a pay cut. Maybe company budgets should just include enough to cover both sexes in the first place”

    They achieve the same relative standard but not the same standard. Winning WS isn’t the same as breaking 16 hours.
    And men would 100% take a pay cut if women’s pays went up. Paying women the same would just be charity because when it comes to attention and memory, no matter how many interviews, previews, reviews, articles, images, reblogs, likes, upvotes, etc. that media does and people do (IRF is great about that, by the way), people remember 16 hour finishes a lot easier than they remember the best person to finish behind a man who doesn’t even podium all the time. There won’t be money to pay the women equally to men because paying women that much won’t have a ROI. It sucks. It really sucks. But that’s reality.
    It’s a topic everyone is aware of. It gets brought up often, either online or in person, but people remember the best performances 100x more than they remember the best performance by a certain gender. There isn’t an “answer” to it.
    JPD gave speeches, did interviews and was arguably the most famous person on the AT because she was the best. Nikki had a documentary made about her. Everyone knows who Ann Trason is. …Anish is aloof but you get the point.
    Everyone knows the objective best and I think it makes sense that that recognition be financially compensated accordingly by a company who wants to exploit it. There’s never been a more data-driven age of marketing than now. Just make your budget and divy it up by impressions. Done.

    Also, not to take away from the topic, and I’m sorry that my reply probably comes across antagonistic, but bar graphs make no sense here.

    1. Gina

      Hey Scott, first off, thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment.
      Paying a women the same amount as man, if they both achieve 1st place at WSER….is a no brainer. Regardless of their times. They both ran the same distance, and placed #1 in their field…they deserve the same reward.
      When you speak about ROI…which seems to be a frequented topic…how do you know that women can’t produce a strong ROI? It seems as though many people are fearful to give the women a shot…thus holding them back. If you were to put your marketing dollars in a strategy that was women focused, I bet you’d see a return. Right now there are more women participating in the general sport of running (obviously this refers to road). If this is true (which it is) why aren’t companies marketing to this huge sea of potential consumers? Women are already interested in running, so why not try to interest them in trail/ultra running? It is a much easier concept to achieve, versus trying to convert a basketball player to an trail/ultra runner. If the name of game is making money, then all businesses should be focused on growing their consumer base, which mainly means growing their consumer base/demographic. Retaining customers comes secondary. Thus….the ROI potential…it is TOTALLY there. It is just up to the decision makers to decide if they want to market and consume that piece of the pie.

      Anyhow, just my thoughts! Again, thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      1. Jim

        Agree 100% about prize money. There should be no difference. I also agree that the women’s market is growing in running. I think the hang up revolves around supply and demand in the women’s trail running retail market. My guess is that if there was a huge demand for women’s trail running apparel, the supply of sponsorship dollars and opportunities would sky rocket for women. These companies want to grow the bottom line and they will do that by any means necessary. If the market is there, they will take advantage of it.

        I think it’s also important to remember that as much growth trail running has experienced, it is still a fringe sport. A large number of recreational runners gravitate to road running and don’t venture to the trail scene (their loss). We can talk about the growth in running, but should never discount that the majority of that growth is in road running.

    2. Ellie Greenwood

      @Scott. I’m sorry I only ran 16:47 at WS and only knocked 50 mins off a course record, I realise that’s not good enough and for some reason you think sub 16:00 is only worthy of recognition. If men have to take a pay cut for women to get equal pay then fair is fair, then men and women would both be in the middle instead of divided. As for your saying paying women the same for the same job as men do – nah, that’s not charity – that’s equality. As for gendered pay equality sucks and being a reality – no, I don’t accept the status quo – you know why – my rent is the same as a mans and so that’s why women deserve to be paid equally. No I’m not a pro, but I am a sponsored athlete that earns an amount I am thankful for from my sponsors (especially given my recent lack of racing) but I’ll always have a close to full time other job (coaching) to pay my rent & bills. Over and out, and fired up for equal pay for equal work.

        1. Ellie Greenwood

          Thanks for writing the piece Gina and I am super encouraged that most of the discussion has been thoughtful and progressive, looking for the ‘whys’ and possible solutions, but yah – my opinions might sometimes be a little raw ;) Happy trails!

      1. Jim

        The fallacy is treating sponsorship like a salary for a typical job with quantifiable objectives. Think of sponsorship as sales commission. Whoever sales the most earns more. If a company looks at you (race results, social media presence, marketability etc.) and thinks they will generate more sales with you promoting their product, they will pay you accordingly . Pay equity, not equality, should be the “buzzword” when talking sponsorship.

        PS 16:47 is an amazing performance and shouldn’t be thought of as second tier or glossed over.

        1. Fitzgerald

          Agreed, sponsorship is not salary. There is a distinction. Also, does anyone know if a sponsored athlete is an employee of the sponsoring company? Or are they independent contractors who themselves are their own company?

          1. Adam W. Chase

            They are almost always 1099 independent contractors but I doubt too many form an LLC or S-Corp so they are simply sole proprietors. The question is whether sports-related expenses for travel, massage/PT, non-sponsored gear, etc. is deductible and I would caution athletes from trying to get away with writing off more than they win or are paid in cash from sponsors. Just because you get in-kind “sponsorship” as a brand ambassador does not, at least in the eyes of the IRS, make you a professional athlete. Reserve that for trying to impress your social media “followers.”

          2. Gina

            Hi Fitzgerald and Jim. Adam is right that the majority of athletes are independent contractors. However, a chunk of the “big dogs” are salaried. Thus…their sponsorship dollars are considered salary. Thus, this enters the realm of equal pay for quantifiable objectives (if you realllllly want to break it down). This is a very very small percentage of elites though. But, it should be known that there are salaried athletes.

            Thanks for commenting!

            1. Fitzgerald

              By salaried do you mean an employee who is paid under a W-2? I can receive $1000 a month to promote a brand, some may consider this a salary, but I am not an employee of the company. The two terms technically are not the same. Knowing the resources these companies have they likely have carefully drafted contracts. I imagine any of the quantifiable objectives are not related to racing performance but more administrative functions.

      2. David

        Allow me to take the devil’s advocate position here and argue that you’re not actually asking for equality.

        ” As for your saying paying women the same for the same job as men do – nah, that’s not charity – that’s equality.”

        When you talk about equality, do you want true equality, or do you want a system that recognizes gender differences in performance by imposing a womens’ handicap? This is an important distinction, because it is not at all clear that you’re being paid differently for the “same” performance. Same relative to your gender, but not same in an absolute sense. This is not like two accountants, a man and a woman, being paid differently despite both processing the same number of accounts and same dollar value of accounts per year. This is two people, one running a 100 miler 2 hours slower than the other. Who was faster? Who is more recognizable because they were the first person who came in, with no other person ahead of them on the course? If you want gender handicaps, then ask for them, but don’t call it equality, because it’s not.

        If pay is based on performance, then men will earn more in this sport. If pay is based on an intangible like ability to attract money to a brand, will men also in general earn more since they’re winning races in an overall, absolute sense, as well? I don’t have answers, but I won’t pretend that I can know the economics of branding and marketing athletes enough to call this sexism.

        “my rent is the same as a mans and so that’s why women deserve to be paid equally”

        I don’t think this is a valid argument. My rent is the same as my neighbors, some of whom earn triple what I make. Do I deserve the same pay as them?

  21. KarenBacon

    Very interesting. Thanks for producing this. I would love to see more technical information which might include such things as how the survey sample was selected (how did you decide who to send it to and why?), etc.. Without the sampling strategy, I have no idea what/who these data represent and what to make of the results. Also we should be very careful about interpreting the results as such small sub-samples (ie, 33 males and 34 females) are very susceptible to outliers. For example, on the extremes (e.g., $100k +) we are talking between 1 and 3 people and this becomes more problematic because we don’t know anything about the sampling strategy.

    1. Gina

      Hey Karen! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I would love to share more of the technical info, but I had promised the athletes that I’d keep the standard for why I chose them, etc. confidential. I know that by doing so, it makes the research a bit more vague… I was hoping the article could at least provide some general averages, etc. If I decide to do further research, I’ll draw up more revealing guidelines, etc. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

    2. Rob

      My thoughts as well. Somebody like Mike Wardian would skew the whole data set so it would be better to acknowledge the outliers but not use their data to change the averages. I’m not saying Wardian’s data was used, but dropped his name as an example.

  22. Stan Franz

    “Women count for 63 percent of the spending on activewear in the U.S., with huge growth each year…” Some of the numbers in your article and the mentioned article are skewed. That 63% contains all activewear, so tossing it into a “ultrarunning” article isn’t truly fair. Even the linked to article lists women as having 49% of the participation in running, but again, that’s not trail running and/or ultras. Look at the 4 random races I picked for participation: 81 male, 19 female. (50K) 96 male, 52 female (17k) 102 male, 35 female (50k) 384 male, 155 female (50 mile championship). Totals: 71% male, 29% female.

    1. Fitzgerald

      I had similar thoughts. What is defined as “active wear” today and how does the the societal shift of active wear playing a more prominent role in everyday fashion affect these numbers. For example, companies like Lulu Lemon may be considered “active wear” but not all of their clothing is used as “active wear.”

  23. Natalie Wyer

    Really interesting!

    Not sure if you’d be interested, but you could probably publish this is a scientific journal if you wanted to get it out to an academic audience (feel free to contact me if you want to discuss it – n dot wyer at uea dot ac dot uk – I’d love to collaborate on an article on this (I used to do a lot of research into stereotyping, etc and as a long-distance runner this would be a fun way of merging my work with my passion – doesn’t happen often!)

    One point that may be of interest to some – you started out by saying that men & women are valued differently because of the roles they’ve played in society. There’s actually some reason to think that the direction of causality is the other way around – that is, that roles are valued differently because they tend to be done by one or the other gender (e.g., take computer programming as an example – it used to be a female-dominated profession and fairly low-paid. It’s now male-dominated and salaries have gone way up). This doesn’t change the implications of what you’ve presented here, but it might change the way you or others think about the gender pay gap.

    1. Cam

      I reckon there is a lot of work to be done before this is publishable, and whilst it might nod in a certain direction, it is nigh on impossible to draw any robust conclusions without the sampling plan and some statistical analysis. From your background it would certainly seem you’re the right person to contribute that kind of scientific rigour. I’d love to read the paper.

      Without wanting to get too far off topic in this thread, computer programming is a very interesting example because the demographics changed near enough in lockstep with the merger of the analyst and programmer roles.

      1. Natalie Wyer

        No, absolutely – I didn’t mean to suggest that it could be published as is (though they’ve done a great job of presenting their results in a descriptive way). And as someone noted above, it would be important to know more about the sampling procedure, response rate, etc. But a couple of things make me think that these data might be of interest to an academic audience. First, it’s a unique sample which makes it interesting in and of itself (assuming that respondents were recruited in a reasonably non-biased way). More importantly, they’ve included some psychological variables (perceived worth, etc) so it’s more than just another demonstration of a gender pay gap. This opens up the possibility to test hypotheses about the causes and effects of pay discrepancies. The sample is still fairly small, so it would be difficult to test really elaborate models, but simple tests of mediation (e.g., comparing a model where gender –> perceived worth –> pay to one where gender –> pay –> perceived worth) would be interesting and informative. Anyway, this may not be of interest to Gina/Meghan – I’m sure they’ve got a lot on their plates already. If they were interested (and willing to share their data and more detail about their methodology) I’d be happy to grant them as much or as little input as they wanted – certainly I’d try to retain the key points they make in this piece (and veto power over anything I wrote), but ground it in the psychological literature on gender discrimination. I guess the main benefit to them (other than authoring a scientific paper, which is probably of little value in their line of work!) might be having the weight of a ‘scientific’ article behind them when they (or others in the future) try to lobby race directors, sponsors, etc.

        1. Gina

          Hey Natalie! It would be amazing to work with to develop a better study. I’m about to head out on a 6 month road trip…so I’m a bit swamped at the moment…but my passion to create a better running industry and community (for everyone) forever strong. PM me on Facebook and I’ll shoot you my email address. We can discuss more there.

  24. Stephanie

    Just a couple comments/observations. First – There are some female performances that really stood out and seemed to get more of the media’s attention than the men’s race, despite the women not out-right winning the race (e.g. Diana Finkel at the 2010 Hardrock, Rory at the 2013 UTMB, Kim Dobson at the 2012 Pikes Peak Ascent, etc.). So while the overall winner, usually male, gets some accolades, sometimes the women’s race IS the center of attention. Maybe some are asking that be more the case? If so, how does one make that happen? See my second comment…

    Second – If I were a part of a company looking for someone to represent my brand, I’m going to go with the person whom all eyes are on. And who is that typically? Who doesn’t want to watch Miller and Hawks red-lining it for 50 miles, or Walmsley going after the sub-14 at Western? Even if they don’t succeed, damn is it fun to watch! I think that is what makes ultrarunning exciting for the fans, and ultimately, gets sponsors’ attention. The only equivalent I can see so far in the female ultra world is Michelle Yates and maybe Camille Herron. They aren’t out there to hold hands across the finish and have a good time, they are usually there to win and give it everything they have, even saying they are going after the course record. (Note: I have absolutely no problem with the recent women’s tie at Lake Sonoma, I’m just trying to provide an example.) Both Yates and Herron come across as being very aggressive runners. It’s all part of a runner’s race strategy – sometimes the patient runner wins but gets very little attention (and it doesn’t only apply to women – think Andrew Miller at 2016 States), but the more aggressive runner comes away with more attention, and likely, more opportunities from sponsors. Personally, if several women said they were going after Ellie’s record at Western this year, wouldn’t there be more eyes on the women’s race? Everyone loves to watch a dog-fight. And sponsors know who the fans are watching…

    1. Ellie

      Stephanie. You make some good points but as someone who in the past has raced competitively I find it offensive when you say that Yates & Herron are only examples of female ultra runners who red line race and generate excitement. You say that they aren’t there to hold hands and have a good time but are usually there to win and give it everything they have. Reason I find this offensive? I could list names upon names of other female ultra runners who are also focused on winning and giving it their all.

      1. Stephanie

        You’re right, I shouldn’t have said they were the only ones. You are an obvious example too. Even mid and back-of-the-packers are out there red-lining it and giving it their all. Perhaps the examples I mentioned just portrayed themselves a bit more in that light, from my own personal observations.

  25. Ellie

    Thanks for writing this Gina and facilitating an interesting discussion. You did a great job at getting as much and best data as possible but it’s still probably a little limited to get full data to analyze. In my opinion sponsors 100% pay based on exposure they get from an athlete through race results and social media primarily. But it’s a chicken and egg scenario – if an athlete earns very little through running they are less inclined to devote time to social media and may have limited ability to dedicate that extra bit of time to training to gain that final performance edge. As soon as a runner can secure more financial support from sponsors this can free up extra time to train to the very best and devote time to social media and publicity events, media interviews etc. I’m certainly very grateful of the sponsors I have and the backing they give me, which in turn allows me to give more time to promoting their brands. As for female participation being less than male participation and thus women being worth less $ to companies, this is also chicken and egg – if a sport is profiled as male dominated with male big names, it doesn’t encourage women to participate so much as if they see female role models. The more that companies equally promo female role models/ competitors, the more mass numbers of women will be encouraged to take part and ultimately purchase product.

    1. Gina

      Thanks for reading and commenting Ellie!
      Your last few lines are EXACTLY what I’m hoping for. Women will be more incline to jump on board the trail/ultra scene if there was better promotion of the women who are currently already in the sport. Some companies are doing a great job promoting the females that are excelling for their brands…others unfortunately continue to pump dollars into the the same people. If companies would be willing to explore outside of their comfort zone/stop being complacent…I think they’d see more growth, a strong ROI, and would have a stronger backing from new audience. Keep your eye’s out for the female specific campaigns this year….those companies get it…they see the dollar potential, and eagerness of women in sport.

    2. Scott Henderson

      This is exactly what I’ve been thinking reading through all these comments. The onus for promotion of athletes lies not only with themselves, but also the marketing and product departments of the companies. If they want to expand the market they ought to help drive that growth. Talking about lower participation, lower value, ROIs, 16 hour finishes feels a lot like a ‘runs like a girl’ argument in disguise. Nevermind the greatest story in recent WS100 history was a 30hr finish by Gunhild Swanson. Maybe if companies created more female signature lines, or did more equal weighting of their pros, we’d see more women participate because the role models are on equal footing with male counterparts. What about the next generation of female trail runners? With no national sporting body the trail running industry, which plays heavily on the idea of being an ethically-driven ‘community’, has a crucial role to play in growing it’s market evenly.

  26. Chris

    I think Ultra Running and the small number of folks familiar with top athletes may not fall into typical sport marketing targets. I don’t know, but wonder if top women athletes easily could have the same value of name recognition?

    Men get paid more because they bring bigger value or could it be men bring bigger value because they are paid more.

    Just spit balling here, but it seems like you get out, what you put in. I see the stat of number of women runners buying apparel being used as a justification for investment into women runners. Could it be that men would be equally influenced by a top women who is promoted? I believe a company should invest where they believe best, but I think ROI is often determined from emotion and with pre-conceived opinions. Maybe an aggressive campaign from a “not your typical” company could change things.

    The only thing I know for sure is that Irunfar and elite runners should not report or participate in events with unequal award money.

  27. Eric

    Sooo … why does everyone take it as obvious that men’s and women’s prize purses should be equal? It seems obvious to me that, at the very least, the payout should be greater for the race with the biggest and deepest field. And in my experience in ultrarunning, that’s pretty much always the men’s race (See Stan Franz’s comment at 7:39 am for support).

    In my cycling days, the prize purse was typically linked to the size of the field. As in, if fewer than 25 riders show up, the purse is $X, if 26-50 riders, $X + $Y, and so forth. Discrepancies in men’s and women’s purses at ultras look like an implicit application of the same principal. [That’s without even getting into the issues others have mentioned about overall speed, excitement generated, etc.]

    As for sponsorship/salary information, I doubt that tells us much at all. Consider Anton Krupicka and Kyle Skaggs–two remarkably similar runners in terms of age, skill, speed, gender, philosophy, hippytude, shirtlessness, etc. I’d be very surprised if Skaggs pulled in the same level of sponsorship as Krupicka for the simple reason that Krupicka built himself a (relatively) huge following and Skaggs didn’t.

    1. Fitzgerald

      I was actually wondering the same thing. Say 60 men and 40 women enter a race with a $1000 purse. Can you argue for the sake of fairness that $600 should be allocated to the men’s field and $400 to the women’s field? At the extremes, what if 99 women and 1 man entered a race with a $1000 purse. Does fairness dictate that the prize purse should be split $500/$500 ?

      1. Ellie Greenwood

        Why should the women who DO participate be penalised because fewer other women choose to/ have the opportunity to than men to race? The vast majority of ultras that do have $ prize money split it 50/50 – please let’s not start making an argument that we go backwards and thus discourage female participation even more.

        1. Eric

          Eh. Why should the men who do participate be penalized because more other men do choose to/have the opportunity to participate? At the very least we can stipulate that there are multiple valid meanings of “fair.”

          Honestly, though, the whole sponsorship-encourages-participation thing seems like a red herring. Of all the people at an ultra, men and women, what percentage are participating because of the prize money?

          1. Fitzgerald

            I would caution anyone attempting to make an argument either way to steer clear of “fairness” arguments. Because as you mentioned, fair to one person is not fair to the other.

        2. Fitzgerald

          I am just raising questions to get a response, not trying to argue either way. As Eric mentions below, how many people at an ultra are competing for prize money? If all prize money was allocated to women would men not participate? I personally do not think so. At the end of the day the majority of this discussion focuses on such a small subset of people in the ultra community, sponsored athletes and those who win prize money. Does this mean the issue is not important? Absolutely not. But, most ultra participants will never get a sponsorship and will never win prize money. The shift to get women more involved in predominately male activities it great. Whether it’s camping, fishing, hunting, climbing, trail running, etc., the influence of women is positive. But again, at the end of the day all of these activities have been predominately male dominated and any change takes time.

  28. Gordon

    You could solve this problem with a staggered start with a handicap based on sex(and maybe age!). Make it one race with one winner. It would be darned exciting and it solves the problem that the women’s race is seen by many as a B race held concurrently with the real race.

  29. shawn

    Great topic and lots of good discussion in the comments. A few thoughts…..

    Creating quality surveys is always difficult because you are forced to guess ahead of time what the answers might be, which in turn an skew they way you write the questions. You seem to have done a pretty good job of getting the info you were looking for, but you also fairly acknowledged in your article that this is a touchy topic which could have affected who responded.

    When you survey employees or an organization, getting a 30% response rate is generally considered sufficient to represent the entire group. (of course, all survey results are biased by those willing to take surveys, eh?) You actually got a pretty high response rate, but since you did it anonymously you can’t really tell whether the data is slanted by some outliers that didn’t respond. For example, if you figured out that the 2 highest paid women in trail running declined to respond but the 2 highest paying men did, then you might have to rethink some of the conclusions.

    Prize money in races should be equal. Period. Sure, I can acknowledge that you could set up an algorhythm so that the winners get some percentage of the entry fees for the people in their category, but that seems like it would defeat the purpose; if there is a race with very few women, I’d rather the purse still be set equally in order to attract more women instead of the numbers dropping because the purse was too small. Besides, aren’t the purses in the major races covered by sponsors more so than entry fees? (in not positive for trail runs, but that seems to be the case for road races.)

    Despite a few numbers and studies mentioned in the comments, there doesn’t seem to be much data on spending between men and women. Sure, there may be more men in trail running right now, but that should actually mean that the ROI POTENTIAL for a female spokeperson is greater because they could bring new people to the sport. (of course, I just realized that I implied there that women market to women and men market to men, which if course isn’t true.) Two other points of products…. Aside from the shoes, there really isn’t that much gear that I’d really call trail-specific. Women will almost always spend more per person because they spend a lot of money on quality sports bras while most guys just wear the shirts the got as swag at past races.

    Other than Boston and NYC marathons on TV, it is hard to consider distance running a “spectator sport” that people will pay to see. Therefore, the comparisons to the US women’s hockey and soccer teams’ ongoing pressure for equality don’t make as much sense. I wish them well, though I think it will always be a challenge to figure out “pay parity” in sports, esp on teams. (why does a quarterback who is having a bad year still earn so much more than the awesome lineman who is protecting him?)

    I look forward to more suggestions on how to figure out if a company is paying its employees and spokespersons equitably. Even though I’m glad Buzz was engaging on this conversation, I sure sensed some “old school” lingo in his statements. It sounded a lot like “well, we sometimes pay women less, but that is because they have other jobs too and they might go out and get pregnant or something.” just sayin’ that’s what i inferred.

  30. Stefan

    I found this article very informative and the comments are all thoughtfull as well.
    However, I can’t support the idea that higher prize money and sponsorship money should be offered as “incentive” to encourage more of any particular group to participate.

    If enough people of any particular group (in this case women) love to run then more and more will start to run, the competition (and entertainment value) will grow and eventually the money will follow.

  31. lancejohnson

    Interesting to see the way this discussion is evolving. When I first read the article, shortly after it was posted, the comments seemed less balanced – and by that I mean all fairly pro-woman and in support of the general premise of the article. Now that some the pro-male comments (if you want to call them that?) have been added, things are heating up a bit…

    Last year at Hardrock, Gina and I debated Title 9 for an hour or two. I think the issues at play there are fairly similar.

    In Silverton, my point was this – as a male who couldn’t care less about football and basketball, I felt penalized that my university was gutting a number of men’s sports (ie. swimming was axed shortly before I got there, support for any non-FB/BB men was minimal, etc.) while at the same time they were adding scholarships for women’s water polo. As much as women felt disenfranchised before Title 9, male athletes outside the big 3 sports have the same experience now.

    I’m not suggesting that we trash Title 9, just like I wouldn’t advocate paying sponsorship to male and female athletes differently when you get the same results/benefits from them. I am saying that equal and fair are not necessarily the same – here’s a hypothetical to illustrate the point:

    What if you are an excellent high-school, male volleyball player – one of the top 100 in the country? You want to go to college, but your family can’t afford to send you and your grades aren’t good enough to get into one of the top academic colleges that offers volleyball scholarships (and you’re honest with yourself, schools don’t give academic waivers for volleyball like they do football and basketball). So, you look around and try to find a school that matches your academic goals and also gives volleyball scholarships. Hey, you have 7 schools to choose from. But of the 70 volleyball scholarships available across those 7 schools only 14 are available for Freshmen, so you have a chance of being able to make it work, but probably not a lot of choice about where you’re going.

    One of the neat things growing up is that your twin sister also plays volleyball.

    She’s pretty good. She made the all-conference team twice, and was all-region her senior year. Her grades are about the same as yours, so she’s looking for a school that is academically in the same ballpark as you. The difference is that every college she’s looking at has a full slate of volleyball scholarships for women, so she’s competing for one of 8000 scholarships available to Freshmen. Her choices are looking pretty good, because she’s probably one of the top 5000 volleyball players out there.

    Are you happy for your twin sister? Hell yes.

    Does it still suck for you? Damn right.

    The bigger question is: Is it fair? Does the fact that your priorities don’t match up with those of society at large mean that it’s OK to deny you opportunities that others have? With limited resources, should historical disenfranchisement be remedied by hurting the party (or, more-accurately, people of the future that have the same genetic traits as members of that party used to have) that was not previously held back?

    I think equality is an incredibly important goal, and this debate/discussion is also fascinating to me on an intellectual/academic level, so there are a few additional things that I thought I’d throw out:

    Sponsorship is about ROI, and that means that to a certain extent neither the athlete or even the sponsoring company determines the value of any athlete – the buying public does. The ultimate question for the company is, “How is my sponsorship of X likely to change my top line, and what does that mean for my bottom line?”

    To get to that answer you have to delve into some calculus that considers how many people’s buying decisions are likely to be influenced. For example, let’s say that 8% of female trail runners are more likely to buy your product because you sponsor one of their favorite female runners, and 6% are more likely to buy because you sponsor one of their favorite male runners; then if 14% of male trail runners are more likely to buy your product because you sponsor one of their favorite male runners, and 3% are more likely to buy because you sponsor one of their favorite female runners (please note these numbers are entirely made-up and just for illustration purposes) where is your money best invested?

    In this scenario, if participation in ultra trail running is about 70% male and 30% female (based on Stan’s non-scientific numbers above, others that I have read have been more lopsided) then your influence multiple is something like this: M=((0.7*0.14)+(0.3*0.06)) or 0.116 for male, and F=((0.3*8)+(0.7*3)) or 0.045 for female. This give a ratio of about 2.6:1 in favor of impact from sponsorship dollars spent on male athletes.

    Based on this, what is the reasonable ratio for a company to invest in each category?

    If you were investing your retirement savings, what choice would you make? Would you go for a riskier, possibly-higher-return option and bank on an exponential growth curve for women’s participation/expenditure providing a better pay-off in the long run? Would you hedge your bets – knowing that you don’t want to work full-time until the day you die and end up as a Wal-Mart greeter when you’re 80 so that you can survive if the gamble doesn’t pay off – and do a little of each?

    Having real numbers would certainly help, we could do a definitive survey to figure out what those numbers are, and then have hard data to drive this discussion. But in the absence of that I would imagine that companies are just making it up – their equation may look something like the one I pulled from my hind-parts to illustrate a point, or it may look entirely different.

    In a market like ultra running, specific-athlete endorsement (from anyone who isn’t Kilian) is probably less important than creating brand awareness and brand image. So sponsorship becomes about more than the benefit of any one athlete, and each individual athlete actually becomes part of the milieu that creates your identity as a brand. In this instance the individual athlete’s persona and popularity play a role (the more you see them, hear about them, etc), and so media culpability comes in – are they giving equal opportunity/coverage to both sexes? (In this area, I’d give IRF a pretty solid A, maybe A- because there are more columns written by men more regularly, but I don’t imagine Bryon and Meghan would turn away a good female columnist, so this could well just be a matter of available/interested writers.)

    This is also where you look at social media presence. I have a particular reverence for Jared Campbell – he is a great engineer, has a wonderful family, is as kind, humble and generous as you could hope for in a sponsored athlete, and is a ghost on social media. Oh, and he’s one of the most hard-ass ultra runners on the planet – Hardrock winner, multiple Barkley finisher – who will give you insightful, succinct, precise feedback that makes your products better. If it were my money, I’d be willing to give him a lot more than he would probably ask for to have him represent my brand.

    I’m not familiar with the specifics of his sponsorship deals, but I’d feel pretty confident in hypothesizing that somewhere out there is a woman who is an ultra runner that makes more money from lesser results, less training, and almost certainly less suffering than Jared, but who has a great blog and cares about Instagram – her social media presence crushes his. The thing is, everyone gets to decide what they care about. Do you, as a company, value social media highly? Do you, as an athlete, place significant importance on how much sponsorship money you make? I’m not saying either is wrong or right, just clarifying that you make choices and that the choices of the company and choices of the athlete have to align for sponsorship to work. You have to be offering a company something that is missing from their image portfolio, while still aligning with their larger company message. You have to be focused on what they need as much as what you want – sometimes the combination of those wants and needs can be worth a chunk of money, sometimes, it isn’t.

    Next, how much does incremental improvement/benefit matter? Here’s another scenario:

    Currently, for argument’s sake, let’s say that companies are using my entirely hypothetical 2.6:1 ratio for sponsorship in favor of men. This is resulting in strong, consistent growth for these companies – let’s say 18% YOY. And, because they are spending at that ratio they are consistently approaching a level of saturation in the men’s market. Invariably, to continue growing they arrive at the conclusion that spending more money on women’s sponsorships is critical and the ratio consistently shrinks so that in (a completely arbitrary) 15 years it’s 1:1.

    Let’s say that ultra trail running is a $100m industry now (again, an entirely made up number). Under the above scenario in 15 years the industry would be a $1B industry, with sponsorships (let’s make up a number and call them 1% of revenue) being $10m per year or $5m for men and $5m for women. Over the 15 years the average ratio falls to 1.5:1 for total sponsorship dollars spent, with men netted $36m in sponsorship, while women picked up $24m.

    Now, consider a second scenario, where all sponsorship starting with new budgets this fall changed to 1:1 going forward. But, because of the disparate ratio in present participation, that slowed the overall growth of the sport to 12%. In the same 15-year scenario the ultra trail market grows to a little under $500m, and in year 15 men and women are evenly splitting $4.8m in sponsorship. Over the 15-year period men and women made basically the same amount of money (because only the first year had the 2.6:1 ratio), but they each only took home a little over $18M over that time period.

    Which is the better scenario? If you’re a man, it’s clear.

    If you’re a woman, in year 9 you’re making more sponsorship money under the first scenario than the second, even though the dollars aren’t equal to what the men are making. In year 15 under the first scenario women are annually making more than double what you would have by going immediately to an even spend. And, over the 15-year period women make 50% more with the first scenario than the second.

    I’m aware that this scenario comparison is built on a biased paradigm that results in lower performance if spending was equal, and I have no evidence to base this on (other than using the argument that women are making that says participation would be higher with more sponsorship dollars). Nor am I advocating that this is the necessary result of that scenario. I’m simply laying out a possible outcome for academic discussion, and am curious what people think.

    My wife and I have each been known to ask the other, “Do you want to take the moral high-ground, or do you want to be effective?” As in so many areas of life, we are now in the world of “Wicked Problems” – where every solution has three cascading problems that result from the “solution”. Simple, knee-jerk, moral-high-ground answers may make us feel like we are taking a stand for something “right,” but are those answers just going to cause of ripple of unintended consequences that leave us all worse off? Maybe a more diligent and engaged exploration is necessary.

    To that end, if anyone has data to build more-accurate models, please share. As I said, I think this is an incredibly important topic and one that is fascinating from a logic/scenario-playing standpoint.

    My last point is this – You could decide to pay equal money to men and women ice hockey players for the next 20 years, but would the needle move appreciably for elite and recreational women’s hockey participation specifically because of doing that? Just like you could pay male gymnasts the same as women for the next 20 years and participation could just as likely still be massively skewed to the female side.

    Just because some people want to play the same games doesn’t mean that an entire population does. And if participation in general is dramatically lower for one gender than another, if the depth of competition is lower, then should the under-performing side be paid the same? What happens to the over-performing side if the under-performing side never ends up reaching parity? (And when you consider what parity is, keep in mind it’s the punters who pay for the elites, so unless you have a base of recreational athletes that is equal across gender buying the gear that funds sponsorship of elite athletes the ratio of participation/level of competition at an elite level is somewhat irrelevant.)

    If the payment to the under-performing side was an investment that never pans out, then the next generation from the stronger-performing side will effectively have to pay that debt because sponsorship dollars will be cut in the future, or businesses that bet on the under-performing side will close and not be able to support either side. Is that good for, or fair to the sport?

    If equality is good, then equality also has responsibility. If your argument is that participation and sponsorship are skewed towards men, and that if sponsors pay women equally that female participation will rise to balance the investment out, then people making that argument should be obligated to do everything in their power to make sure the investor gets their money back. Professional ultra running is essentially a start-up business, if you want the money, you have to show them how they can make it back, and giving vague arguments about “it’s not fair that you invested in someone else’s company” definitely isn’t going to get it done.

    While it may be self-evident, it can hurt to note that most of these arguments/questions are only applicable to endemic sponsorship – where someone is selling equipment or other goods and services that derive revenue directly from someone’s participation in the sport that they are sponsoring. Non-endemic sponsorship is an entirely different – and more complicated – kettle of fish.

    Finally, here’s the the action item that all of this is building toward: if you want to see something different from companies, change your buying patterns. If you think that it is important for a company to equally support male and female ultra runners then do exactly what Amanda did: call them, ask them what their policy is, let them know it will be a primary driver of your purchasing decisions, and then put your money where your mouth is.

    I spent the last three years working for Ultimate Direction and have seen the company grow dramatically, in part because of how they have supported women athletes.

    I’ve recently begun working with RaidLight – a company who has two women as (arguably) their highest-profile athletes: Nathalie Mauclair (featured on the cover of multiple RaidLight catalogs) and Elisabet Barnes. The make-up of the 55-person brand is about half women as well. Clearly they support women in the sport.

    There are companies out there that really care about this. There are companies that won’t unless you make them. Support the companies in the sport that match your values (and know that finding out who these really are may take a bit of effort, but come on, you run for 20+ hours for fun, how hard can a couple emails be) and you’ll get the sport you want.

    Also, keep in mind that if you don’t make that part of your purchase equation, that you will ultimately be someone who is perpetuating this inequality.

    1. shawn

      Interesting post. Will have to read it again sometime, but I do agree that Title IX has had consequences for the “less popular” mens sports, including track and cross country.

      The problem with calling a company and asking for their policy on male/female pay is that you are always going to get the “of course our policy is gender equality” answer, but never the data to back it up. Just look at the response below from $Billions; “we pay equal based on performance” is a pretty sneaky answer that you can’t argue with unless you have the data.

  32. Simon

    After scrubbing through this article, it appears that 1) the way the information is portrayed is biased towards men earning more than women when in fact it is a “mixed bag” analysis. 2) seems like there is complete gender equality in trail/ultra running and am glad I support this sport.

    1. shawn

      Not sure how you came to the conclusion that the graphs were biased. She gave you enough data to do the graphs another way if you want, so do them yourself and see if you find an “offset” between the average, mean, or outliers. (the only data you dont have is “how much more than $100K did those few earn; appears to be 2 men and 1 woman in the range.)

  33. alicia

    Sage has a good point about deeply rooted discrimination and the fact that the decision about how much an athlete is “worth” will be affected by an individual manager’s biases. There is already evidence that hiring managers are affected by the apparent ethnicity of a job applicant:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/17/jobs-search-hiring-racial-discrimination-resume-whitening-callbacks
    and, an older study from 2003,
    http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873

    It would certainly make sense that decisions about sponsoring women would be similarly affected by the sexism that is still so ingrained in most of us (including in women!). So, I would be hesitant to say that female athletes will necessarily receive a fair deal even when the decision is purely based on the perceived value of sponsoring them.

  34. Luke

    I think there is the implicit notion that men can advertise to a whole population but women can advertise to women that is skewing the perceived value of a sponsored athlete.

    This may be rooted in all gear being men’s gear and the women make do, and then more ‘specialty’ companies filling that gap leading to there being ‘products’ and ‘products for women’. And correspondingly, if you need an athlete to rep a product, you choose a man unless you’re targeting women specifically. In other words in the venn diagram of products for men and products for women, men are getting the overlap area.

    1. Luke

      I should add that this bias may not reside with the product company, even subconsciously. A data driven algorithm making sponsorship decisions based on perfect data about who moves the dial will choose the men because it reflects the bias in the consumers. Neutral product companies just following the data may be harvesting the bias they or other companies planted decades ago.

      1. alicia

        Well said. No doubt it will be a long, slow process to change that bias, but maybe if companies made a deliberate effort to use female athletes in ads aimed at the entire population, not just at women, it would be a good start along that road?

        1. lancejohnson

          Alicia, I certainly get your point. Could advertising differently change the consciousness of runners? Possibly.

          The problem that you may run into is that there may be an innate bias among men that they would not even pay attention to an ad that features only a woman, assuming it is a female-specific product and not for them. With this, the attempt to use advertising to shift a consciousness won’t work, because the reader has to engage with the ad in order for that to happen.

          If you want to make sure that you get men’s attention, I guess you could go Italian with it and use a semi-naked woman, but that would be a profoundly more sexist than using a man in the ad.

          The other issue is: would you rather have companies spending extra money to place ads that feature women for unisex products, or have that money for athlete sponsorship? If there is a lower efficacy of an ad for a unisex product using a woman then the company will have to compensate by advertising more, or use multiple ads (one with a woman only, one with a woman and a man, one with a man only to hit the full range) which will increase marketing cost. That money has to come out of the budget from somewhere, so I would imagine that it would come from either event or runner sponsorship (which tend to be the three big areas of a marketing budget in this sport).

          What is the best way to shift this paradigm? Like most economic quandaries, I think a little bit of all the various options will make the most meaningful progress – but that means steady, consistent change rather than getting it done in a year or two, so a certain level of patience is required.

          Sports can be a model for society, but very often it is a reflection of society – so while women tend to make about $0.80 for every $1.00 that a man makes (in the US – which has more parity than a lot of places) doing the same job out in the world at large, it would be difficult to expect that any sport wouldn’t run into a similar problem with sponsorship.

          Sports can push society toward parity, but in order to achieve equality in sports (and for it to be more than tokenism/charity) I think you have to have more parity in society. Feel free to argue if you feel differently, but I think that a small, intentional community like ultra running could bridge 5-10% at most.

          Finally, keep in mind that ultra running is a global sport that athlete value is effected by the significant schism between male and female athletes in Europe and Asia – it’s not just about how you are valued in ‘Merica…

          1. alicia

            That sounds like a bit of a justification for inaction, though. You are essentially saying that gear companies should feel free to sit back and relax and wait for society to change, since their efforts at changing society themselves might result in only marginal gains.

            First of all, that sounds awfully similar to the argument that since individuals can have only so much impact working against climate change, they shouldn’t bother with conservation efforts.

            Second, your idea of the downside to companies making an attempt at attacking societal bias is that less money would be available for male athletes. If it’s true that male athletes are currently getting a disproportionately large piece of the sponsorship pie, though, is it really fair to see a reduction in the size of that piece as a downside? Or is it just an appropriate correction to an inequity?

            Third, I think gear companies could effect more than minimal change, at least within the running community, if they addressed the use (or lack thereof) of female athletes to advertise gender neutral products. Think about the impact that television shows have had on society; what people are repeatedly exposed to in their daily lives does have an impact on how they see the world. Advertising to runners is a microcosm of that concept.

            Your reply actually brought to mind the Martin Luther King line about the greatest threat to equal civil rights being not the social conservative but rather the white moderate, who wants racial equality but only through slow progress and at some undefined, more convenient time in the future. I wonder if there is an analogous problem on a lesser scale by which men who are ostensibly pro-gender-equality, but who think that it is not yet the right time for such equality, will hold back progress against gender discrimination?

            1. lancejohnson

              Sorry to have hit such a nerve for you.

              I certainly never said that companies can’t do anything or suggested that they ‘sit back and wait for society.’ What I said is that the companies can’t do it on their own. They can probably get about 10% ahead of society.

              Keep in mind that the definition of a business is “Providing goods and services for a profit.”

              Everyone who is advocating what companies “can” or “should” do needs to keep in mind the “finite resources” aspect.

              None of this stuff is free. Companies have limited budgets. If you want to “change consciousness” with advertising it’s going to cost you. If you want to fund athletes, it comes out of a budget. Same goes for races. Same goes for everything – it all has to be paid for by someone. Trade shows, and sales calls all cost money.

              And ROI has to be met.

              In the real world there are people at these companies who need to pay rent and buy groceries, and buy running shoes (on employee purchase, yes, but that still costs something). The business also needs to pay for office space, computers & internet access (so everyone can read IRF), etc. At the end of the day, a MUT-focused company might make 8-10% to the bottom line if they are in decent shape. Some make more, some make less. That means that for every $1m they sell, $80-100K is left over for profit at the end of the year.

              And, keep in mind that businesses have to compete with each other for market share. If you’re not using your money responsibly, then someone else will and you will go out of business.

              Please note that absolutely nothing in this post (or my previous one) has suggested that businesses shouldn’t fight this fight.

              I’m just saying you need to be reasonable when you start placing expectations on them to either fix it overnight or take a significant hit on profitability (most aren’t terribly profitable at the bottom line) to wage this war.

              I’m as progressive a liberal as you are likely to find short of a full-on communist. I’ve also been an entrepreneur and had to fight these battles myself (and I put 10s of thousands of dollars into fighting them – or roughly 60% of my marketing budget at the time) – and while I felt like I was doing the right thing, at the end of the day I still had to make payroll and and keep my vendors paid on time.

              It’s fine to sit on a forum and say “they should do more, they should fix this,” but until you’re sacrificing equally to make it happen, please don’t call me part of the problem for simply stating that there are parameters that businesses have to operate within to stay in business.

            2. shawn

              Great point with the MLK reference. This topic of gender equal compensation for sponsored athletes may not be the most important social issue of our time, but it does reflect the reality that our overall society continues to be biased towards white males. (Yes, im a 48 year old white male. Conservative/moderate, if there is such a thing anymore.) its very easy for us all to sit back and say the status quo will become more equal in due time. Or we can ask ourselves: “if not now, when? If not me, who?” (not sure who originally said that. I thought it was from World War I era, but the internet seems to think it was Gorbachev or Emma Watson.)

          2. Cam

            I wonder how many ultrarunners actually see the ads? I’m not in the US market, but here in Asia I’d be prepared to bet it’s a shrinking number and unlikely to be particularly successful at raising consciousness.

            Sponsorships are also a funny thing. They’re probably great for the athletes, and no doubt quite good for increasing brand awareness, but I’ve never bought a pair of shoes because runner X wears them. Quite the opposite: I often think that it has to suck to contractually have to wear those narrow, toenail blackening torture slippers rather than the best shoe available. In the same vein, Ethan Newberry and his ilk have sold me more kit than Killian.

            1. $Billions

              Wow, Cam, you are completely misguided and your thoughts are not supported by facts. Every focus group we perform proves out that runners purchase shoes because of “X” runner time and time again. It’s a proven influencer model. Now, I will disclaim that most shoes are sold from peer to peer than from professional to amateur, but there is definitely a solid segment of the market (especially high school in the States or Club in Europe or Global Trail) that purchase because a professional wears the shoe.

              Lebron/Kyrie in Basketball; Kilian Jornet in Trail; Speith in Golf; Kanye in Lifestyle; Ronaldo and Messi in Futbol… the list goes on. Check some of the above

            2. Cam

              $Billions$, you say “wow, Cam, you are completely misguided and your thoughts are not supported by facts.” which aside from being grossly offensive is a very odd position to take:

              1) I’m not in the US market. This is a fact.

              2) If Zenith’s new Mobile Advertising Forecast report can be believed, the proportion of mobile internet use has increased globally from 40% in 2012 to 68% in 2016. According to the same report, the proportion in 2016 was 79% here in Hong Kong, and is forecast to grow to 89% by 2018. The rest of Asia broadly follows this trend. Pagefair’s first quarter report claims that 95% of all mobile ad-blocking occurs in Asia, and that the use of mobile ad-blockers increased 40% year on year. As ultrarunners here tend to skew towards educated folks with disposable income, I suspect you’d find ultrarunners over-represented in the segment of the population who do not see the ads, and given the direction of the numbers I also suspect the number of ultrarunners who do see the ads is shrinking. My misguided thoughts do appear to be supported by the facts —
              would you be prepared to lay a bet in the opposite direction?

              3) I have never bought a pair of shoes because runner X wears them. This is an immutable fact. You go on to say “Now, I will disclaim that most shoes are sold from peer to peer than from professional to amateur”, which seems entirely consistent with my personal anecdote. That aside, Killian is a wonderful ambassador for Salomon, but it doesn’t seem all that misguided to doubt he’s shifting shoes in the same way as LeBron — after all I’m yet to run an ultra against a kid in high school.

            3. $Billions

              You perhaps have not raced an ultra against a kid in high school because you 1) were either not aware or 2) have only raced in a small region in Asia.

              I am not speaking about ads. Ads do not sell as much as influencers. I am speaking about influencer purchasing. I would like you to attend 1) any ultra race or 2) any trail specialty retail location and ask 1) runners or 2) retailer/associate if they sell products based on professionals.

              The answer is yes. While at Gone Running in HK, we pretty much only sold the Salomon S-Lab Ultra (red/white) because of Killian Jornet, a professional runner for Salomon, who’s image was pretty much at every point of retail.

              The answer is also “yes” in the States at such locations like SF Run Co. They sell an inordinate amount of trail shoes because so-and-so professional wears it (even if the professionals happen to work of live close by).

              Not sure why you fixated on mobile ads, but yes, shoes are being sold at a level because pros are using them and sharing experiences socially and with results.

              Glad I could help.

            4. Cam

              $Billions$, to be perfectly honest I’ve only raced on three continents and have no idea how they do things in most of the world, but to my best recollection I’ve never raced anything of marathon distance or longer that allowed participants under the age of 18. I concede there might have been some late leavers.

              It might amuse you that actually read your response while in Gone Running — needed some socks. Given your intimate knowledge of the place you’d know that the store is the size of a standard American bathroom. Not a lot of wiggle room for POS marketing. I’m dead sure you’re right and Killian would have been in there somewhere though.

              Anyway, I’m weary of you misrepresenting what I have said to push your own barrow, so you know what mate, you win (although I’m still not gonna buy shoes because someone else gets them in the post for free).

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