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On January 2nd Nick Symmonds – the American 800 metre runner and marketing crackerjack – flew up to Seattle to sign on with Brooks, at their headquarters. He will be training with their Brooks Beasts team, from time-to-time as well as training in warmer climes and at elevation. This, after having spent seven years with the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club under coach Mark Rowland; Nike signed Symmonds right after graduation. Under Rowland he improved to a world-class level, pretty rich stuff for a graduate of Williamette College – a division three school. Is this signing a good deal for Brooks, or did Nike get all they could out of Symmonds?
The now 30-year-old Olympian, fisher and hunter decided that Nike was no longer the right fit. In not so many words, he expressed the desire and the freedom to pursue marketing opportunities elsewhere, in addition to whomever his shoe and apparel sponsor may be. In the running community, Symmonds is now known as much for his marketing prowess as he is for his running accomplishments. Let’s face it he refers to himself as a “brand” and at the same time he owns a very impressive personal best time of 1:42.95.
Although he did not win a medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, he is fast enough to win a medal in any of the Olympic Games heretofore. Olympic and World championship races are often tactical, the competitors will jockey about at various speeds for 500, 600 or even 700-plus metres before unleashing a ferocious kick; winning the race in a slower time than what they are otherwise capable of. Symmonds has done his share of winning and 2013 was his best year to date.
Symmonds possesses the ability to win an Olympic medal however; the 800 metre distance is arguably the most competitive race distance of all, so each race – with the exception of when world-record holder David Rudisha competes – can provide a different finish order, each time. During the 2007 Prefontaine Classic meet in Eugene, Oregon, Symmonds whipped past Russian Olympic gold medallist Yury Borzakovskiy, winning a tactical race in 1:44.54. He sat, he kicked and he won. Can he do it again at age 30 and more importantly at 33, during the Rio Olympic Games? Brooks and the Brooks Beasts team and their coach Danny Mackey must think so. As apparently the offer – although Symmonds is not at liberty to discuss the details – was similar to Nike’s, just with more flexibility in his freedom to seek additional sponsors.
Being innovative, Symmonds, during the 2011 season, auctioned off part of his skin to a sponsor. The deal worked where he would compete wearing a temporary tattoo on his shoulder, in lieu of United Stated Track and Field (USATF) rule limiting sponsors on runner’s USA kits or bibs. The winning bid was submitted by Hansons Dodge Creative. Additionally, Symmonds markets an Idaho-based wellness company called Melaleuca. He also assists struggling athletes to find sponsorship opportunities. He is a well-known entity.
The Brooks 800 metre team will be competitive with athletes such as Matt Scherer who owns a personal best time of 1:46.11, Mark Wieczorek and his 1:45.36, while Casimir Loxsom has a best of 1:45.28 and of course Symmonds’s own 1:42.95. Symmonds’s career should continue at least at the current level for a few more years. There is no real sure-fire way to predict a slow-down; certainly 30-years-of-age is young enough to compete at a world-class level. Wilson Kipketer was 32 when he won a bronze medal in 2004, as was Johnny Gray when he won bronze in Barcelona in 1992 and there are many more who won into their late 20s. Just importantly for Brooks, his desire and energy to market the “Symmonds brand”, matches his athletic abilities. Without knowing the financial details, it is a fairly safe bet that Brooks will benefit, regardless as to how Symmonds performs on the track. Although the better be performs, the better catch this signing will be.