Changes Happening in Elite Athlete Sponsorship
Reebok has ended its sponsorship of two of the fastest distance runners it worked with, American Bobby Curtis and New Zealander Kim Smith, in a move that points to larger changes in elites' sponsorships.
Curtis was the second-fastest American at 10,000 meters (27:24.67) in 2011 and the 2008 NCAA champion at 5000 meters. But he wasn't a factor at last year's Olympic Trials, placing 10th in the 10,000, and his marathon debut of 2:16:44 at New York City in 2011 was also underwhelming. Reebok didn't renew Curtis' contract at the end of 2012, and Curtis has relocated from Pennsylvania to Michigan to be a member of the Hansons-Brooks group.
Despite being from New Zealand, Smith is arguably better-known than Curtis to American running fans. Since graduating from Providence College in 2005, she has stayed in Providence, Rhode Island, and races frequently in high-profile U.S. road races. She holds New Zealand records for 5000 and 10,000 meters as well as the half-marathon and marathon, but has yet to place in the top three at a marathon or other major race. Smith's Reebok contract also ended on December 31; New Balance announced today that they have signed her.
Shoe companies always trim their elite rosters after an Olympic year. And Reebok, which in the mid 1990s was one of the main shoe company sponsors of elite runners, has worked less and less with elites as its prominence in the running shoe market has waned.