Nike buys USATF? At least masters can expect free uniforms

Selling our soles? Will Nike gear be mandatory? Will masters get PR help?

USATF signed a deal with Nike this week. We have to live with it through 2040. What’s in it for us? Masters track can expect free uniforms for worlds. Maybe some marketing and PR help. The official release says: “The new partnership will enable USATF to fully support Paralympic and masters track & field teams through official outfitting of current Team USA gear.” ChiTrib track writer Phil Hersh wrote: “All USATF can say now about its plans for the increased Nike revenue is it will go for a variety of established and new programs.” Phil quoted USATF PR chief Jill Geer as saying: “That could include programs for elite, masters and youth. Because this does not begin until 2017, we have time to make plans in a collaborative effort.” But wrinkles in the deal may further marginalize masters track. And critics are sounding alarms.

USATF’s “fan page” on Facebook included these comments:

  • BREAKING: USATF Championships to be corrupt for foreseeable future.
  • So, all Nike-sponsored athletes will now get a 5-second head start in all competitions!

  • this just in… no other apparel, shoe or any other company will be allowed to use the words ‘Track and Field’ without paying a royalty to Nike

  • NIKETF – finding new ways to screw athletes, limit earning potential and being less professional than a backyard game of horseshoes since 1991.
  • This just in: Max Siegel’s office relocated under Alberto Salazar’s desk.

  • Track & Field News editor Garry Hill commented:

    Amid all the hysteria this announcement is generating, allow me to suggest there’s perhaps a very big positive here.

    I’ve said many times that there was impending doom coming for the sport the day that Phil Knight is out of the picture and the corporate bean-counters decide to walk away from this low-rated sport completely, in which case there’s nothing left.

    There is now a hedge against that, and you’ll forgive me if I like that bit of security.

    A letsun.com column says:

    In a rare act of transparency, [USATF CEO Max] Siegel offered great detail on how today’s agreement will greatly enhance USATF’s finances. In addition to Nike upping its sponsorship by 100%, a key part of the deal that many may not grasp initially is that USATF will now be able to eliminate its marketing, timing and communications budgets.

    “Since USATF is officially part of Nike, there is no need to pay flashresults.com for their timing services. We can just put down the results the way Phil (Knight) wants them. He’s promised to talk to Alberto (Salazar) on Monday before every USA meet and email us a file of the desired results by Wednesday,” said Siegel who added that he thought his background in NASCAR, where things are often fixed allowed him to be creative enough to conceive of the deal.

    “We also are likely to be able to totally eliminate both our PR and marketing departments. We don’t need a marketing staff any more as there’s no need to try to sell the sport to anyone else. Non running companies don’t care anyway and thus we were spending more trying to get than we were actually bringing in. As for PR, there is no one better at PR than Nike. When they promote themselves, they’ll be promoting us,” added Siegel.

    USATF masters track already has a volunteer marketing arm — led by Bob Weiner — but when Nike takes over, will masters get help or ignored? Guess we’ll have to see.

    In the meantime, lets take the masters pulse.

    And what are YOUR hopes for the Nike deal?

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    April 17, 2014

    7 Responses

    1. Mary Harada - April 17, 2014

      well isn’t this interesting – so Nike really has bought USATF – and now will provide things for – among others masters. Yes and I have a bridge for you too.
      I find it hard to believe Nike cares at all about masters,we are NOT the future of track and field – we are the past – we do not tend to spend $$$ on the latest and greatest fashion in shoes, we tend to shop around for our gear and even want running shoes that fit as opposed to be the latest fashion.
      Strike me over with a feather if this deal will include anything even at a decent discount for masters. We will continue to be able to buy the older USA Olympic track team gear – at full price – plus shipping and tax – and for WMA meets we will continue to have to buy the most recently available tops for competition – all the other gear will be optional and at full cost if we want it.
      Marketing for masters will be minimal if at all, timing services may be very iffy – and my bet is that the first several national masters track meet results will be a bit of a mess because the timing service does not know how to deal with multiple age groups and age grading may disappear from the results.
      Call me a cynic -Nike is about profit. Masters are not seen as a profit center.

    2. tb - April 17, 2014

      What’s in it for us?

      An interesting default to have. If it benefits our sport, it benefits our hobby.

    3. Kenneth Effler - April 17, 2014

      I worked at Nike in the early years of its existence, and their continued support of USA track and field is sincere. However, I have to agree with Mary’s comments above regarding any benefits this new contract brings to masters track and field. Nike will continue to garner exposure with the open athletes and national teams, and that exposure will translate into sales at the grass roots level: high school and youth track and field. Unfortunately for masters track, our numbers do not demand attention from companies like Nike. I’ll even hazard a guess, that masters teams competing at WMA events may be forced to buy the current season’s national team singlet. The singlet is likely to change from year to year, depending on which major track events take place in a particular year. Hopefully Nike can make the team uniforms available at wholesale, or close to it, which will benefit the masters competitor, and still allow Nike to make their normal margins on the product.

    4. Jason Purcell - April 17, 2014

      I like it!

    5. Terry Parks - April 17, 2014

      Let’s see what the deal is before saying how it won’t benefit us. The press release seems positive and the fact that it mentions more support for Masters seems like a good thing to me. We will see when the details come out.

    6. Milan Jamrich - April 18, 2014

      I think our age is showing. Is everything new automatically bad :-)?

    7. Pete - April 19, 2014

      Milan, your comment was terrible, lol

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