Saucony signs Wallace Spearmon, Jr through 2012, release, commentary by Larry Eder

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Wallace Spearmon, Jr. is introduced to the Saucony corporate family by Richie Woodworth, President of Saucony, Inc. , photo courtesy of Saucony communications.

Saucony has always been the sleepy, New England running shoe company that could have done this, should have done that. Several years ago, Saucony was purchased by Payless.

Payless was then purchased by Collective Brands, about a year later. What would happen to the venerable running shoe brand? One needed to look no further than Saucony President, Richie Woodworth, for the answers. Woodworth has, as someone once said, "that vision thing."

Saucony's Richie Woodworth wanted to see his brand, Saucony, grow and prosper. Woodworth brought in several experienced, well-respected product people. Among them, was one Pat O'Malley, the man who revived Reebok running in 2001. O'Malley is a man possessed with making great running shoes. Pat observed. Pat tinkered. Pat asked the hard questions. And, Pat found young talent. After some hard work, Pat's team was blazing on all cylinders, with product winning accolades from both the Running Network, Running Times and also Runners' World running footwear reviews. Saucony was learning that, running shoes that are well received, need small changes to make them better. Giving O'Malley some room, also allowed Pat to develop an amazing team of young and innovative designers and product line professionals. Saucony was no longer an itty-bitty running brand...but, really, where could it go?

Under Woodworth's direction, Fred Doyle, a great salesman, and one of the most respected men in the business, Mary O'Brien, a highly-respected, senior level, footwear marketing executive, and several other key players were brought into Saucony. A very good brand with a sleepy New England reputation, was getting even better. Saucony moved up from sixth in the performance running food chain, to fourth, to third, and is now challenging for the second position, per recent industry data.

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Wallace signing autographs with his new fans, photo by Saucony communications.

Richie Woodworth was not done. How does one build brand stature? Being a former world class athlete, Woodworth sensed what he needed. Woodworth needed one of the most experienced global/Olympics sports marketing executives in the sport. He found such an executive, one who had done over 500 athlete sponsorships. Woodworth found a former top ten most influential in global sports marketing in his choice. In track & field, if you remember Dan & Dave (1992-Barcelona), the Michael Johnson Atlanta golden shoe (1996), Carl Lewis winning gold in Atlanta (Nike), the FILA Racing Teams, and Reebok Premier relaunch of 2001-2005, you have seen this person's handiwork. Now at Saucony, Mark Bossardet has been given the task of developing a long-term strategy for Saucony in global Olympic sports marketing. Bossardet relishes the challenge. "We are making a statement with the sponsorship of Wallace Spearmon, Jr., " noted Richie Woodworth, in a very candid post-event interview, " and this is just the beginning. We have upped the ante."

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Wallace Spearmon, Jr. and his 'Up Close & Personal Moment: being interviewed by Sharon Barbano, photo from Saucony communications.

Wallace Spearmon, Jr. is one of the most successful long sprinters in our sport. Spearmon was made for the 200 meters, and has used his God-given talents, and lots of hard work to run the fifth fastest time in history; a blazing 19.65 over 200 meters. Many keen observers believe that Wallace Spearmon, Jr. can run much faster!

A graduate from the University of Arkansas, Wallace was going to be a Razorback from early in his childhood. It was in his early years, playing with his friends, all, like Wallace, sons of top athletes, that Wallace met Coach John McDonnell, one of the successful, beloved and respected coaches in track & field. "Coach McDonnell would watch us run (Wallace, Stanley Redwine, Jr., Micheal Connelly, Jr.) around the track and he was always encouraging us. He was like a father figure..."

Wallace's sport history sounds like the makings of a sports movie: he did not make the track team in either seventh or tenth grade. " I did not have a good start, and I did not do well in my tryouts." In his first high school race, he did not finish the 400 meters, making it to the 300 meter mark. "It was just so long, " Wallace recounted. His first love was football, and in fact, he starred in the jumps and hurdles in high school. With personal bests of 24-10 in the long jump, 6-8 in the high jump and 45-10 in the triple jump, Spearmon thought he would be working with the world renowned Dick Booth, one the best jump coaches in the world! Instead, Wallace ran a 20.8 in his first 200 meters in college. In his second, Wallace ran 20.7--that was it, for Coach McDonnell, Wallace was now a long sprinter. Spearmon Jr. won the NCAA title his freshman year at 200 meters!

While he does not like the 400 meters, Wallace ran the 4 x 400 meters a lot in college. His best relay leg was a 43.2, and his best open 400 meters was 45.22. " The 400 meters is too long for me. I remember going out one time in 20.6 for 200 meters, and my coach put his hands over his eyes. When I hit 300 meters, my coach told me that he had never EVER seen someone run backwards in a 400 meters before. That race was about 92 meters too long that day!"

Wallace Spearmon, Jr. is one of the few sprinters who has beaten Usain Bolt. Bolt & Spearmon get along quite well, and are seen hanging out at music events and, of course, in
major events in Europe.

Today was unique for Wallace. His mother, brother and training partners with him, Wallace Spearmon, Jr was welcomed by 200 plus red t-shirt clad Saucony employees. All the shirts had wallace spearmon, jr on them. After an introduction and a few words by Wallace, he was interviewed by Sharon Barbano, the Saucony Director of Communications. Ms. Barbano, a skilled interviewer, had done her homework-she found out, among other things, that Wallace does not like flying, hates large bodies of water, and was voted The guy with the best eyes in seventh grade!

Wallace, in the RBR interview later, made the point that he respected Saucony's loyalty to performance and was excited with the new track spikes and apparel that will be unveiled during the 2010 track season! " I have been working hard,
and look forward to racing in 2010." noted Spearmon.

So, where does Spearmon's sponsorship fit in sports marketing? Here is the story, and the significance, I believe. Wallace Spearmon, Jr. will have a huge role in helping Saucony develop product relevant to young men, and also to the speed athletes. As Richie Woodworth and his team at Saucony build for 2012 and beyond, they need to attract young males to their product, and with a runner of the caliber of Wallace Spearmon, Jr., they hope to make it a win-win for both the brand and the sprinter. Time will tell, but Saucony and Wallace Spearmon, Jr. are off to a very good start!

This writer enjoyed the day with Wallace Spearmon, Jr. It was the way sponsorships used to be. It was not that long ago that the top brands had a handful of sponsorships. For brands focused on performance, just like sales growth is one shoe sale at a time, sports marketing is one thoughtful signing of an athlete at a time, as Spearmon Jr. has the opportunity to affect how Saucony is seen by an entire new generation of young men.

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Saucony Donates, on behalf of Wallace Spearmon, Jr., $10,000 for the YES community group, photo courtesy of Saucony communications.


Saucony® Signs Endorsement Deal With Olympic Sprinter Wallace Spearmon, Jr.

Two-time World Championships gold medalist to represent brand through 2012 Olympics

LEXINGTON, MA (February 8, 2010) – At a ceremony held this morning at its brand headquarters, Saucony, Inc. signed 2008 U.S. Olympian and two-time World Championships gold medalist Wallace Spearmon, Jr. to a multi-year endorsement contract. One of the world’s fastest sprinters, Spearmon, Jr. is the winner of three consecutive World Outdoor Championships 200-meter medals (2005, 2007, 2009).

He is also the U.S. 200-meter indoor record holder, the 2006 USA Outdoor 200-meter champion and a three-time NCAA champion at University of Arkansas over the same distance. Spearmon, Jr. is the first Olympic sprinter to be signed by the global athletic footwear and apparel performance brand.

“I’m very excited about competing for the Saucony brand,” said Spearmon, Jr. “The team at Saucony feels like a family, and I know that I’ll enjoy working and racing for them and being a part of that family. What’s really inspiring to me is the brand’s emphasis on performance and innovation, evident in their spikes and their AMP PRO2 training and recovery apparel. We’re a great fit and I’m looking forward to a long and lasting partnership, accomplishing great things together─both on and off the track.”

“At Saucony, our athletes inspire us, make us better,” said Richie Woodworth, president of Saucony. “We’re a competitive company and we want to win. Our partnership with Wallace will help us push innovation and performance higher and faster. He is an incredibly gifted runner and a tremendous individual. His desire to team up with the Saucony Run For Good Foundation to enable more kids to enjoy the benefits of track and field is inspiring to the whole Saucony team."

At today’s event, Spearmon, Jr. presented a Saucony Run For Good Foundation grant in his name to Boston-based Youth Enrichment Services (YES) to support a year-round, inter-neighborhood track and field program that will reach out to more than 1,500 inner-city youth participants. Bryan Van Dorpe, executive director of YES and the program’s track and field coordinator, accepted the “Wallace Spearmon, Jr. Run For Good Foundation” grant of $10,000. Over the length of the contract, the Saucony Run For Good Foundation will continue to award future annual grants in Spearmon, Jr.’s name to nonprofit organizations that support opportunities for at-risk youth to benefit from participating in track and field programs.

“As we begin the long buildup to London in 2012, we’re thrilled to have an athlete with Wallace’s significant history of success and global visibility join our team,” said Woodworth. “His charisma and style, not withstanding his astonishing speed, will enrich us and inspire and build our legion of Saucony followers as we work with Wallace in creating the fastest shoes on the planet.”

Spearmon, Jr. currently lives and trains in College Station, Texas.

For interviews with Wallace Spearmon, Jr., please contact Sharon Barbano at Saucony (617-824-6126), [email protected] or Jeff Lawrence at Mullen (617-226-9945), [email protected].

About Saucony, Inc.: Saucony, Inc., a subsidiary of Collective Brands, Inc., is a leading global supplier of performance athletic footwear and apparel with its widely recognized brands Saucony and Saucony Originals. For more information, go to www.saucony.com.

About Collective Brands, Inc.: Collective Brands, Inc. (NYSE: PSS) is a leader in bringing compelling lifestyle, fashion and performance brands for footwear and related accessories to consumers worldwide. The company operates three strategic units covering a powerful brand portfolio, as well as multiple price points and selling channels including retail, wholesale, ecommerce and licensing. The company operates three strategic units covering a powerful brand portfolio, as well as multiple price points and selling channels including retail, wholesale, ecommerce and licensing. Collective Brands, Inc. includes Payless ShoeSource, focused on democratizing fashion and design in footwear and accessories through its nearly 4,500-store retail chain, with its brands Airwalk®, Dexter®, Champion®, Zoe & Zac™, the first-ever affordable green footwear brand, and designer collections Lela Rose for Payless, Unforgettable Moments by Lela Rose, alice + olivia for Payless, Christian Siriano for Payless and STLP x Airwalk, among others; Collective Brands Performance + Lifestyle Group, focused on lifestyle and performance branded footwear and high-quality children’s footwear sold primarily through wholesaling, with its brands including Stride Rite®, Keds®, Sperry Top-Sider®, Robeez®, and Saucony®, among others; and Collective Licensing International, the brand development, management and global licensing unit, with such youth lifestyle brands as Airwalk®, Vision Street Wear®, Sims®, Lamar® and LTD®. Information about, and links for shopping on, each of the Collective Brand’s units can be found at www.collectivebrands.com.

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