Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Montrail-Nathan Ultrarunning Team to Disband in 2008

Olga shared on her blog that the Montrail-Nathan Ultrarunning Team was recently told that they will be disbanding for 2008. Per the e-mail sent to team members:

"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.
- SD

17 comments:

  1. As a sponsorship consultant, I always found the Montrail-Nathan Ultrarunning Team sponsorship to be one of the most effective ones I know about. Of course, that's just from the outside looking in and without really knowing budgets, goals, etc.

    I'm sad to hear that this sponsorship is over.

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  2. bev anderson-abbs11/21/2007 08:50:00 AM

    I didn't even get the email! This is the first I heard about it.

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  3. a lot of the guys on these teams are my inspirations in ultra running. seeing how they train hard and compete provides a lot of motivation for a new comer like me. hope the disband doesn't affect their attendances at races.

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  4. Scott,

    Great post. I, for one, have enjoyed being part of the Montrail team for the past three years and have always appreciated their active involvement in our sport. That said, every one of us knows that some day we'll have to return to buying our own shoes and that's just the way it is. I have absolutely no doubt that our incredible sport can survive any corporate shakedown that comes its way. That, of course, is what we all love about it!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    AJW

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  5. I agree that some sort of Montrail blog continues. I was not updated that much, but when it was it was real stuff about races, gear or training from the athletes. Hopefully it does not turn into what the North Face ultra blog is. No offence to those runners, but its not blogging when corporate give you a topic and the athlete replies with a paragraph or less. It's not a very personal look into the athletes that the Montrail blog was giving.

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  6. First Vasque, now Montrail. I feel for all the people let go with nothing but a polite e-mail. AJW, sounds like you're one of the lucky few who gets to stay. The selection of the athletes they kept is certainly "interesting". I would love to know what their criteria were. They kept a great bunch of people who are great athletes, but they also let some real deserving folks walk. The selection was clearly not strictly based on results (from what I've heard, arguably their best runner is no longer on the team), and it was clearly not based on loyalty (many people who were on the team from the get-go are out).

    I admit I have no idea whether sponsoring ultrarunners is an effective marketing tool for these companies. But, if it ever was, I can't imagine it has somehow ceased to be so. As Scott says, the sport is as popular as it has ever been. Witness the 16% chance of getting into WS through the lottery this year!

    -J

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  7. Scott - it appears that not every runner got the email . Do you know who is still on the team?

    Hard to believe this wasn't worth the expense.

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  8. For the list of runners on the Team go to Kendra's blog from Montrail blogsite.
    Thanks for cheering, Scott. We'll be running, racing and involved in every way, sponsorship or not. Team gave us an opportunity to be noticed, thus meet more folks out there. It gave us a sense of a family inside of Ultrarunning family. We still are - both. I agree that decreasing Montrail team by so much (not that part of it was expected) and disappearing Vasque team is somewhat is sad. But sometimes revenue from sponsoring athletes considered to be not productive by mother-companies (at least that's my take, that Montrail itself has nothing to do with it). Oh, well. Go run merry:) I'll see you folks as much, if not more, in years to come! And be sure, I give hugs no matter what color shirt I wear!

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  9. That's too bad. I read Olga's blog about this too and it's suprising to see teams like these disappearing. Olga is right on about the team feeling like a family. Teams and groups make people feel like they belong to something much more. This is why Team-In-Training and similar groups work so well. I know that since I got on with the Marathon Maniacs, I've enjoyed participating in races alot more and seeing the same folks who wear the same colors and sharing the victory of crossing that finish line every time.

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  10. Like Bev, I didn't get the email either but, rather, heard it today from a friend on Team Inov-8! Too rich.

    I'm keeping my blog. :)

    Scott, see you at 9 Trails.

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  11. This year was my third year with the Montrail team, and I am by no means a household name in ultra running circles. As I said on Kendra's blog site, I was honored to be an ambassador for Montrail and figured that it was more for my character than my talent. It was really cool that Montrail did sponsor a wide variety of people and that by doing that captured the heart and spirit of ultra running itself. Anyone who has been at WS when the clock turned
    30:00 can attest to the fact that those people making it to the track just before and just after the cutoff are cheered for as much as the victors.

    I love this sport and look forward to new adventures all the time. I'll keep my blog going and stay connected with friends that way.

    Besides trying some new races this year I hope to venture into some of Idaho's wilderness areas.

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  12. I too got the email that I was dropped for 2008 after running on the Montrail team since 2001. I have never been a super ultrarunner and was always the lowest level sponsoree(in terms of gear). I recieved 14 pairs of shoes over the course of my 7 year ties with Montrail or about $1350 worth of product. I raced in around 100 ultras/marathons/and big group runs wearing a jersey sporting thier name and would answer questions about their shoes to anyone at any time. If I convinced 14 people to buy their shoes over these last 7 years then their money was well spent.

    It is not surprising to me that the bigger company (Columbia) has changed its marketing of Montrail. My hope is that they do not change the product in the way many would say Mountain Hardware gear has changed since THEY were acquired by Columbia.

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  13. Scott,
    Just to make it clear, the M-N Team is not dibanding in 2008. The team is definitely still on, but at about 1/4 of its 2007 size.

    I wish I could say more on the why's and what's about Montrail's decision, but I just don't know. I do, however, feel extremely fortunate and proud to be one of the chosen few for next year.

    Sean

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  14. Very unfortunate. Montrail had an amazing collection of athletes. Hopefully another team will spring up in its place.

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  15. Thanks for the comments, folks. I've had a few clarification e-mails sent in as well. I may be overstating the issue by saying "disbanded" - Montrail will retain sponsorship of 15-20 athletes, and from what I can tell it will remain formed as the Montrail/Nathan Team.

    Bev - if you didn't get the memo, you're probably still on the team! It appears the only ones notified were those who will no longer be on the team.

    - SD

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  16. According to Kendra's 11/21 blog http://borgrunner.blogspot.com/ post, with a listing of the new Montrail team, your assertion about Bev is unfortunately incorrect, Scott.

    and I do not believe 'disbanded' is overstating the issue. Just ask the 70 or so folks who got cut from the team.

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  17. Montrail did contact me after I posted my first comment and I am thrilled to say they will continue to support my running addiction. Although it is unfortunate that they have drastically downsized the team,as jls points out by some 70 folks, they have been extremely generous over the years and I would imagine that size of team is unsustainable. They now have numbers more in line with what other companies are supporting. I hope to see everyone out on the trails in '08.
    bev

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