New Balance's first year sponsorship of TCS NYC Marathon a success by any standards

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The sport continues to change and evolve. The brands that are doing well get that. They realize that while runners are creatures of habit, there are many pretenders to the throne.

As the New York Times seems to do each and every year, around the New York City Marathon, they found a negative article on running to throw on their front page. The article, The Running Bubble has Popped, tells the story of a business that has way too many mediocre races, has not charted a reasoned approach to changes in media and has been able to sit on its behind for nearly a decade, while specialty running enjoyed double digit growth. While the numbers of bucket list runners has diminished, this writer is not sure that serious running, the folks who buy 4-5 pairs of $150 trainers , has changed one iota.

Butter_Michel-NycM17.jpGMichel Butter, a NB athlete in NYC, photo by PhotoRun.net

RACE DAY. #RoadToNYC #TCSNYCMarathon

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Yes, the first and second generation of runners are getting older. As one gets older, some runners do turn to walking, or cut their mileage. Some stop running. But, since 1989, high school runners have grown from 800,000 to now 1.6 million boys and girls in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. Funny thing is, so few running brands do squat for high school and college runners, even though they purchase 5-6 pairs of training shoes a year!

While most brands take the next generation for granted, some brands stay invested in young runners even today. Funny, the brands that seem to stay involved with up and comers, the next generation of marathoners, seem to be the brands that are annoucing strong Quarters? Wow, what a concept. As some running footwear brands try an find the flavor of the month, they loose market share. Respect the running business or falter.

On Saturday, November 4, New Balance VP of Running Tom Carleo explained the reasoning behind their complete support of NYRR and the city of New York. Carleo wants a generation of healthy runners and walkers to purchase New Balance. What a concept! But, Carleo, a veteran of the shoe wars, is someone to heed. Nine years ago, Mr. Carleo came to New Balance, and inspired new and old NBers to do what Jim Davis, the Chairman of New Balance, had dreamed of for fifty plus years: make the finest of running shoes under the brand of New Balance. . NB is definitely in the game, and when you speak to retailers they say, " New Balance gets it." Carleo'secret? He has put together a fine team of shoe professionals and gives them the room to succeed, and yes, fail. Making running shoes is not rocket science, but with how some brands flub it up, it sure seems that way.

One smart shoe guy told me years ago: " the key to being successful in running? Making great shoes consistently." Successful brands have some shoes in version 25 or 30. Slight changes, to bring in newbies, but enough tradition to keep the geeks.

Walking around the expo at 5:30 on Saturday, November 4, this observer noted products sold out, and watched a staff enthused over their first year in the Big Apple as sponsor. The expo had lost booths by adidas, ASICS, Brooks, PUMA, among others, but saw Diadora back in, Skechers, The North Face, HOKA ONE ONE, and Saucony very pleased with their invovlement.

Sitting in the Newark/Liberty Airport , I saw NYC product everywhere, with marathoners gently limping, some wearing their medals, and more wearing NB official gear, a key sign of health of the event.

Changes are needed in our sport, from support of independent running stores, and running media, to ending mediocre races. The sport has matured. Want to get the media attention like NYC had this weekend, best in a decade? Support American runners, tell your story better and make sure that the media still alive in the sport of running are well informed and supported.

End of my preaching. New Balance has lots to be happy about, and they will do better next year. They have nine more years to go in their sponsorship. That battle over sponsorship included seven brands fighting for the feet and soles of the media capital of the world.

New Balance did a fine job in year one.

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