The Tokyo Olympics is known for many reasons. They were special for many stories of persistence and perseverance. Allyson Felix the most decorated American track and field sprinter also made it very special my running in her own brand of sneakers. There is a interesting story to it and it highlights the grit and determination of a human being. She knew her place well beforehand.
Alison had a high profile break up with ‘Nike’ in 2019. The company reportedly wanted to reduce her fee by 70% as she was pregnant and hence not in top shape. After the breakup she could not land sponsorship deals with other footwear brands easily. However she was able to sign an apparel deal with ‘Althleta‘ in April.
Later the 32 year old sprinter launched ‘Saysh‘ a sports shoe brand. She wore her own shoe brand in Tokyo Olympics and helped the team members win the 4×400 meter relay. She broke the medal record too and became the most decorated athlete.
She accused ‘Nike‘ of being unsupportive during her pregnancy period. Due to the treatment meted out to her, she was determined to find her place. She trained throughout her pregnancy. In her own words she said that “If I come back and I am just not the same if I can’t make a fifth Olympic team’ I am gonna know that I fought, that I was determined and that I gave it my absolute all.”
This is a big lesson to big corporates who don’t recognise the power of their primary stakeholders. Since then ‘Nike‘ has changed its approach towards athletes and has come up with a 18 month guaranteed pay for those whom it has signed up as brand endorsers. They had to face a congressional inquiry, after huge public outcry. The company later mentioned that they will not terminate an athlete’s contract as a result of pregnancy. Many other sports brands are also following suit and this is a win-win for both.
Today Felix also serves as President of her company ‘Saysh‘ along with her brother and business partner Wes, who serves as the CEO. They also raised 3 million dollars seed money from a range of venture capitalists to fund the venture.
She is now creating her own ecosystem, which will treat athletes with all the fairness and respect they deserve. She knew her self-worth and she worked hard to prove it. She refused to be bogged down by her own challenges and rose like a phoenix. She recognized that other women are also facing similar challenges with big sports goods companies and she decided to do something about it.
You can read more about her experiences with Nike in the New York times op-ed page here.