One of the big news items in the running world last week, among the American records and spring marathon elite fields, was the announcement by the Competitor Group, organizer of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series of races, that it was reinstating support for elite athletes in its events. This about-face came less than five months after the original announcement drew condemnation and calls for boycotts from runners everywhere. How much that reaction caused the change is debatable, but top runners everywhere, especially Americans who figure to benefit most from the new policy, certainly got a belated Christmas present from CGI.
From a purely business standpoint, supporting elite athletes might be most accurately viewed as a feel-good type of philanthropy that engenders cheers from the masses in much the same way some shoe companies’ support of cancer research does. It’s a form of giving back, a sort of noblesse oblige that event (and equipment) companies do because they can, and should. But in the end, how much does it really benefit their bottom line?