Is sponsorship a sin? from Scott Semple on Vimeo.
I came across the above video on a recent internet odyssey. Scott Semple who has transitioned from suffering on steep, cold, north faces to suffering on the skintrack in ski mountaineering races called out climbers with no noteworthy accomplishments for cheating more accomplished climbers out of gear and money. He asks, is sponsorship as sin?
Sponsorship is a marketing strategy. A company provides gear and possibly money to an athlete with the hope that they will be a good ambassador for their product and increase sales. To answer Scott's question, I would say that if a company believes a particular athlete will sell more widgets than a stronger athlete, then the company is justified in sponsoring the weaker athlete. But if I see some punter plugging a product (mostly some obscure nutrition company), it actually makes me less likely to buy that product. First of all based on principle and secondly, you can plug it all you want about how the product is the greatest, but it doesn't change the fact that you still suck at running/cycling/skiing/climbing.
I'm envious of the runners fortunate to have sponsors that also happen to make ski mountaineering gear. They get free or cheap gear to power them to another midpack finish (except Luke Nelson, Mike Foote, Paul Hamilton, and Rob Krar who can throw down podium results). While I wouldn't particularly say that they are deserving of getting free stuff based on merit alone, you can't deny that they bring a lot of exposure to the table from their following in the running community. And that is probably enough to justify sponsorship.
I often question the effectiveness of sponsorship. I've been provided with access to discounted ski and bike stuff. I can tell you that I've sold 0 Xprezo bikes, though I've had a bunch of people come up to me and tell me that my bike is cool. I might not have sold any Dynafit race equipment, but I have sold some buddies on Dynafit touring boots. I feel that many athletes don't connect well to the broader community. If you are only hanging around your friends, peers, and fart smellers, you're just preaching to the choir. Go lead some group rides, go hang out at your local spot.
Salomon should be releasing their anticipated skimo ski, the Minimum to the public in the fall, and I expect reps to get bombarded with requests for free or cheap pairs from runners dipping their toes into skimo!
|Not to be confused with the Minimax!|