A Discussion of the Pros and Cons of Ultrarunner Sponsorship

Below is the fourth and final post in the iRunFar series on ultramarathon sponsorship in 2008. While the three prior posts have covered large ultrarunning teams, smaller ultrarunning teams, and individual ultrarunning sponsorships, this post focuses on how sponsorship of ultramarathoners affects the sponsors, the sport, and the sponsored ultrarunners themselves.

Actually, the post itself is only meant as a starting point for discussion of sponsorship of ultrarunners (as distinct from sponsorship of races). I encourage both sponsored and unsponsored ultrarunners to leave their thoughts in the comments. Although a long shot, it would also be great to hear the thoughts of individuals responsible for sponsoring ultramarathoners on why they do it. While I strongly encourage everyone to share their thoughts, I ask that you be civil and respectful in your comments. (Before posting a comment to this thread, please consider rereading your comment to consider its tone and content.)

Runners

Pros

  • Free or reduced price gear, stipends, and the like
  • Camaraderie with teammates
  • Pride in having been externally acknowledged for your achievements and/or character

Cons

  • Pressure to perform
  • Requirements to compete in a certain number of races
  • Requirement, whether actual or perceived, to exclusively use sponsors’ gear
Companies

Pros

  • Affiliation with top ultrarunners
    • Photos and endorsements used in print and online marketing
    • Perception that sponsor is giving back to sport
  • Ambassadors on the trail and, increasingly, online who can share their personal experience with sponsors’ gear with other ultrarunners
  • Feedback on current and developmental products from experienced runners

Cons

  • Sponsorship takes time and money
  • On rare occasions, over sponsorship by a company can lead to resentment by some within the ultrarunning community (there were some such rumblings re Montrail in 2007)
The Sport of Ultrarunning

Pros

  • Companies giving back to the sport
  • Improved products through feedback from experienced ultrarunners
  • Increased overall visibility of ultramarathoning through company marketing of personalities

Cons

  • Some would argue that sponsorship takes away from the purity or simplicity of trail ultrarunning
  • Feedback from top ultrarunners could skew product design towards their requirements which might differ from those of slower ultrarunners
  • Increased overall visibility of ultramarathoning

I look forward to hearing what you have to say – remember to keep the discussion civil!