Many in the running community raised their eyebrows when shoe company Skechers and Meb Keflezighi inked a new endorsement deal through the 2012 Olympics. The move may seem odd on the surface but it makes more sense than most think both for Skechers and Keflezighi.
Skechers is clearly looking to enter the running shoe market. Marketing 101 says finding a high-profile, respected endorser will help a brand gain some credibility among those in the running community. Skechers could go after a superstar like Ryan Hall but the cost of signing such a big name would likely be more than they wish to pay. Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist and 2009 New York City Marathon champion, is a man with great credentials and loved in American running circles but is also at the tail-end of his career, making him a more financially feasible option for Skechers.
Skechers is wise to make a big splash by signing a high-profile athlete. Under Armour, another company that recently started a new line of running shoes, endorsed a small group of athletes – notably 400 meter runner Monica Hargrove – and training groups like Team Rogue Elite in Austin, TX but failed to do enough to convince runners of their legitimacy. Even though their preliminary running shoes look questionable at best, Skechers’s running line has now gained a great amount of attention with Meb on their side.
The move from Keflezighi’s perspective is also logical. The contract makes Meb the face of a potentially innovative new brand. There’s a reason Jenny (Barringer) Simpson took less money from New Balance to be a star of their running department rather than being just another endorsed athlete for a bigger company. Money of course played a role in Meb’s decision but being the head guy affiliated with the company can pay dividends. Pro runners need to make a living after they retire and deals like this with smaller and/or traditionally non-running brands can offer cushy well-paying jobs. Keflezighi is rumored to be interested in coaching in his native San Diego once his competitive days are over but having a possible corporate position in his back pocket is a good insurance policy. Meb and his brother/agent Hawi are surely shrewd enough to see this opportunity and certainly took it into consideration when making the decision.