So the announcement came out today. Spartan Race has picked up a corporate sponsor in Reebok. And it could only be a Spartan that could lift a sponsor that big! Funning aside, I would like to quote Jeff Wohlen
“Robert, (Bonazoli) I know exactly what you’re saying. It’s the same thing as when a band switches from an indie label to a major label”…”they bow to label pressure and put out a subpar product”
Im sure most of us are with Jeff on this. As soon as I saw the social media announcements my mind started down two paths. Good for Spartan. Bad for racers? Then in an odd twist I checked in with Spartans own Street Team Guru Travis Ketchem on an entirely different matter. My conversation with him had me logging onto Spartan Races website and I see this
This was a serious “WHAT THE FUCK?” moment for me. If you follow my blogs I don’t like to swear (in print) but god damn it George I swore.
Now its not the money, because that can’t be a bad thing. And its not that an internationally known entity, Headquartered right here in our own, beautiful New England, is sinking in claws. No its not that they recently, and wisely for both parties, purchased Crossfit. Or even the fact that they have logo’d the hell out of the NFL, NHL and even the Olympics. No those things don’t inherently bother me. It is the analogy that Jeff made so eloquently. Sub-par product: See also mass produced.
I don’t buy into the term “sell-out.” This is ‘merica thats what we do. We make an idea and we get someone to buy it. Then, when we get enough people buying it, someone else wants to buy the whole idea from us for a ton of cash so they can make even more cash. And honestly who doesn’t want 2000 pounds of cash. Odd note 1 million dollars in $100 bills weighs roughly 22 pounds…carry the one…yeah I’ll take a ton of cash. But I digress.
To me this was just entirely disturbing:
For me its over. When you take on a big name sponsor you expect that you’ll see it in the advertising, the merch, the festival area, radio spots, web presence, but where I would have drawn the line for being inundated with the corporate sponsor saturation would have been on the course. Now it will be like a freaking NASCAR race! Every where I turn Reebok!
You see the thing that drew me, amongst other things, to Spartan Race was the visceral feeling you got from running the race. That feeling of being challenged against natural, albeit man made or constructed, obstacles. With this change I feel like I’ll just be going to another corporate owned entertainment product. Do you remember Great Woods? The Boston Garden, Foxboro Stadium? These place names told you what it was about. Now they are known only by the money brokers who cashed in on them. I think it sucks to go to the Comcast Center, the TD Banknorth Garden or Gillette Stadium. There was a tangible feeling you got by going to those places. A feeling of being tied singularly and uniquely to that event, place and time. Spartan, although having many a race, was always unique, different, exciting. A once only spectacle. Replayed but never repeated.
Now it may becomes generic, delineated, streamlined, efficient. Corporate. Now I’ll be forced to endure the same advertising onslaught I drown in in my day to day life.
When I first received a finisher shirt that had a Dial for Men moniker on it, my thoughts went directly to Jeff’s cautionary statement. “Here comes the crap.” Now a fucking Reebok stamp on every wall, and obstacle. Vomit. I fear cookie cutter, standardized races.
Spartan, to me, had a dirty, F-U kind of feel to it. A “Yeah I do them what of it? Join me or piss off” tone. I don’t imagine there’s going to be any more of the shenanigans many of us deplore but secretly love to see other people get caught up in. Nope and to reference another sport gone crazy: Gone are the day of the the Leatherheads.
So take off those Innov8’s. “Slip on the new Reebok OCR/Xfit line of shoes: Guaranteed to get you off your couch, into a box, out of the box and into the mud.” And if they use that I am going to sue