New Balance Signs Jenny Barringer, release, note by Larry Eder

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Jenny Barringer, Team New Balance, photo courtesy of New Balance communications.

Jenny Barringer has been the most sought after American collegiate distance runner in some time. An NCAA champion times over, a world class runner at 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters, and the AR in the steeplechase, Jenny is a rarefied athlete. After she choose New Balance, she called the other companies who bid and thanked their representatives for their interest in her. That response, confirmed by various brands, just showed Barringer as a class act.

That many major running footwear companies met with her and were taken by her intelligence, charm, athleticism and drive is a statement of fact. That she choose New Balance is more about finding a place where her running and non-running causes came together. Barringer is a women of some complication. A world class runner over several distances, Barringer has aspirations for law school someday. Engaged, Jenny spent last weekend in NYC, with friends, making the tumultuous decision of which wedding dress to purchase.

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Jenny Barringer running in Colorado, photo courtesy of NB communications.

Tom Carleo, GM of Running at New Balance, noted how Jenny's desire to give something back to the running community tied in with New Balances' same mantra. NB supports the NYC Armory, arguably, (with the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston), the savior of indoor prep track & field in the U.S., the Race for the Cure (since its infancy), and Girls on the Run, an innovative program promoting girls self perception through fitness and running.

Carleo called Barringer, " a nice fit" for New Balance. Carleo added, " Jenny is arguably the best women collegiate distance runner ever! "

Jenny noted, " I went on a journey to find out where I fit. Authenticity is in the very fabric of New Balance..and I like that...I do not have a routine right now, I am looking forward to going home and setting up a routine, as I train for this spring. No indoors this season. I want to take the time to prepare for the season." Ms. Barringer also noted that she needed a reprieve, both physical and mental, to build up for what will be her first season as a professional athlete.

Jenny Barringer likes to be prepared. That came through in her conversation with the media about her last season: "Whoever captured the picture of me running 3:59 at Pre, I love the picture! It was my favorite race of the year. I felt lucky just getting into the race. For some time, the top athletes in our sport do not seem to clash much. At Pre, all of the top U.S. women were in the race. I was a great race!" beamed Ms. Barringer.

Jenny added" If I look back at my season, I was really ready anytime I raced last year..at the Berlin final, I was behind at the start, perhaps too far for some observers, but I was running my race. At the end, I was very close to the top athletes."

That was an understatement, as Ms. Barringer's charge over the last kilometer was reminiscent of former U.S. male steeple deity
Henry Marsh. Barringer showed, with her 9:12.5 AR in that race, that she was for real. Jenny Barringer, like the great steeplers of the 70s, is world class over any distance she chooses. Why? Beats me. But look at it this way: the steeple is about the consolidation and management of energy resources. To be world class, male or female, distance runners must not panic, must control, control, control and be in the race, when the medals are decided. Jenny Barringer, in this observer's mind, has a fascinating career ahead of her.

The world of sports marketing was really founded at adidas, by the late Horst Dassler, the enfant terrible of the Dassler family, and a man who, while having died prematurely, truly influenced the global side of our sport. Dassler brought money into track & field. It was there before, but he brought in real professionals. It is not surprising that adidas, PUMA, ASICS, Nike use athletes as a huge part of their brand identification.

While the signing of athletes has been a rarefied world, for the most part, done by Nike, adidas, PUMA and ASICS in running, the landscape has changed. Performance running brands like Brooks, New Balance, Mizuno, Saucony are now looking for athletes (if they do not already have them), who represent the brands core values and help promote their brands. Each brand has a different approach. New Balance, now with Josh Rowe, manager of NB Integrated Marketing, and John Evans, long time NB athlete coach and manager, are charting their own course. "We are looking for athletes to resonate with the brand and the brand to resonate with the athlete, " noted Josh Rowe. Josh Rowe was recently hired after a long time
stint at Nike.

The problem for many of the brands is that athlete salaries have, according to many, gotten out of hand. How does one value a world record at 5,000 meters, or a gold medal in the Olympics? While many can give you a good arguement, there are many dissenters. Suffice it to say that many brands see sponsoring runners and track athletes as a way of supporting the sport that helped them sell nearly $8 billion in running shoes in the US in 2009 (with about 25 percent used for running and fitness). What type of athletes resonate with women runners? Those are questions that sports marketers need to answer in 2010.

This is a tough time for athlete contracts. Many contracts, which ended in 2009 after an Olympic year, are being redone in 2010. It is only the most desired athletes who are finding strong pay days in 2010. Many athletes have found themselves with no contracts, or their contracts greatly reduced.

Or, when the needs of several brands intersect. ASICS recently re-signed Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor through 2012. The recent move of Tirunesh Dibaba to Nike comes to mind. Last year, Li Ning, the Chinese footwear brand, paid a reported $1.25 million a year for Yelena Isinbayeva for five years!

One sports marketing veteran told RBR that the best deals are the one's that were never consumated. Sometimes, however, it becomes too expensive and the sports marketer has to push away from the negotiating table.

In this day and age, what value does an athlete have to the brand? Some brands cared about one thing in the old days: medal counts. Some brands, especially niche brands, look at the positives to putting something back into the sport. Some brands see the iconic value of focusing on eight to twelve athletes, for worldwide recognition. Some brands focus on both athletes and federations. In the U.S. sports scene, Nike has the U.S.O.C.
sponsorship deal, where they sponsor the uniforms of most U.S. federations, plus they have the strong U.S. federation, USA Track & Field.

RBR finds that each brand has to look into its culture to find out where the athlete fits or resonates with the brand. That is the challenge for sports marketing/integrated marketing professionals like adidas' Spencer Nel, ASICS' Ben Cesar, Brooks' Jesse Williams, New Balance's Josh Rowe, Nike's John Capriotti, Mizuno's Ron Wayne, PUMA's Pascal Rolling, Reebok's Patrick Joyce or Saucony's Mark Bossardet. As each brand charts it's own course over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how an athlete such as Jenny Barringer affects change. (Note that the largest players in track & field are adidas and Nike, with PUMA playing at the top of the world with Usain Bolt, most probably, the world's best paid track athlete).

Watch for an full interview with Jenny Barringer over this weekend! Tomorrow RBR will cover the New Balance Games!Also watch for interviews with Sarah Bowman, Heidi Dahl, Andy Baddeley and Ricky Stevenson!

Release from New Balance, dated, January 22, 2010:

New Balance Signs Endorsement Deal With Olympian & Four-Time National Champion Runner Jenny Barringer
January 22nd 2010

Boston, MA - Global athletic leader New Balance announced today the signing of Olympian and American record holder Jenny Barringer to a multi-year endorsement contract. Barringer, who just graduated from the University of Colorado in December, owns the American record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 9:12.50. She has proven that she is one of the best athletes in the world, earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, two world teams, and is a seven-time All-American and 12-time All-Big 12 honoree. Jenny also won four NCAA titles and two national steeplechase titles.

“I’m thrilled to join the New Balance family and am eager to represent a brand that I find both inspiring and authentic,” said Barringer. “Given their quality products, support of charitable programs, and commitment to domestic manufacturing, I feel that New Balance and I are a great fit. I’m particularly excited to work with the Girls on the Run® organization, encouraging young girls to respect themselves and develop a healthy lifestyle through running.”

“Jenny’s accomplishments as an athlete make her a great brand ambassador for New Balance,” says Tom Carleo, GM of running at New Balance. “But it is her sincere passion and energy to give back to the community through organizations like Girls on the Run® that inspires the entire company and make her such a natural member of the New Balance family.”

Barringer competed for the U.S. in the in the 2008 Beijing Olmypic Games. She has proven her incredible versatility and that she isn’t just a steeplechaser, essentially rewriting the collegiate record book, setting records in almost every event in which she competes. Jenny owns the collegiate record in the indoor mile (4:25.91), indoor 3000m (8:42.03), and the 5000m (15:01.70) as well as the outdoor 1500m (3:59.90), steeplechase (9:12.50), and 5000m (15:05.25). She has the rare ability to compete on an international level at a number of different events.

For the past four years Barringer has been coached by Mark Wetmore who is currently in his 12th coaching season at the University of Colorado. Barringer will continue to train with Wetmore and live in Boulder, CO with her fiancé, Jason Simpson.

About New Balance

New Balance, headquartered in Boston, MA has the following mission: Demonstrating responsible leadership, we build global brands that athletes are proud to wear, associates are proud to create and communities are proud to host. New Balance employs more than 4,000 people around the globe, and in 2008 reported worldwide sales of $1.64 billion. For more information please visit www.newbalance.com.

For more on New Balance, please click on http://www.newbalance.com

For more on the sport of running, please click on http://www.runningnetwork.com

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