"For 2008, we are able to support 15-20 athletes total for individual sponsorship. It's been decided to end the 88 person Montrail-Nathan Ultrarunning Team next year. This decision was based on our current staff size and marketing needs."
Always a shame to hear about ultrarunners losing out on a sponsorship opportunity. It seems like the sponsored ranks are dwindling (like the Vasque team disbanding last year), despite the fact that ultra attendance is at all-time highs. We all know this type of marketing works - I found myself trying the Montrail Hardrocks for my first ultra shoe because of the great word of mouth from sponsored runners, and wouldn't have thought of trying the Nathan packs without Krissy Moehl's endorsement. Alas, I guess that's the way it goes. Perhaps this is due to the acquisition of Montrail by Columbia Sportswear last year - reduced support of grass roots efforts was certainly one of the fears many had shared with me about this acquisition. I know from experience that finance and HR are often cut in the first year of acquisitions, with marketing staff and budgets coming a year after that. Well, this is about two years later so that would be right on track.
I have always been impressed with Montrail's roster of runners, including some of the coolest people on the trails (and super fast to boot) - Sean Meissner, Olga, AJ Wilkins, Bev Abbs, Krissy Moehl, Lisa Smith-Batchen, Sean Andrish, Annette Bednosky, and more. I have enjoyed the Ultracup Blog as well, and hope that it can continue in some shape or form. It seemed to me that Montrail has always had a strong grasp on grass roots sponsorship, and due to that they naturally found their way onto the blogosphere. Their sponsored runners are, and continue to be, some of the best ultrabloggers out there. It also felt to me like the Montrail-Nathan Team was more of a true "team" than others, in that they all knew each other well. Perhaps the "15-20 athletes" that remain will keep up their blogs and continue to stay in touch. I can only hope that this move doesn't imply a reduced sponsorship of the Montrail Ultra Cup as well.
For you Montrail/Nathan runners that are free agents come 2008, just let me know if you need some help setting up your blog sites. Would love to see you continue to contribute your experiences (no worries about you, Olga!). I see a few of you are coming to Santa Barbara 9 Trails this Saturday - let's be sure to raise a bottle a beer in honor of your team at the finish. You were part of a time in ultrarunning when sponsors and runners aligned better than ever, and you should be proud of it.