Olympian Allyson Felix Breaks Ties with Nike and Launches New Shoe Company

Shoeography | Tuesday, October 26, 2021 | 0 comments

Allyson Felix has long been one of the most impressive American Olympic athletes, becoming the most decorated track athlete in the event's history. However, her 2019 experience was dramatically different, as it saw her ending her contract with Nike (one of her long-time sponsors for shoes) and starting up her new shoe brand. Felix took these steps in the face of rather difficult circumstances in her personal and financial life.

Shoeography: Olympian Allyson Felix Breaks Ties with Nike and Launches New Shoe Company

First, she was coming off a difficult pregnancy that threatened the life of her and her child. These types of challenging pregnancies are not uncommon, even now. Even something as simple as a cold (a disease that affects about one billion Americans every year) can be a problematic health situation during pregnancy. It was during this time that Nike decided to cut her compensation by 70%.

Shoeography: Olympian Allyson Felix Breaks Ties with Nike and Launches New Shoe Company

Nike tried to argue that her compensation decreased due to her performance in 2019, which was naturally distracted due to her struggles with her pregnancy. Felix states that she was told to "stay in her lane" and not worry about the business side of her career. Instead of following this advice (which many athletes have had to do in the past), she decided to launch a new shoe company called Saysh.

Shoeography: Olympian Allyson Felix Breaks Ties with Nike and Launches New Shoe Company

This step required a lot of unique challenges and changes in her life. One of the challenges of launching a business is creating a website to promote the company. There are 1.8 billion websites operating around the world at any given point, so new businesses also have to pay close attention to their branding. When starting Saysh, Felix used a few unique methods that would help her brand stand out.

Shoeography: Olympian Allyson Felix Breaks Ties with Nike and Launches New Shoe Company

Needing to make a quick impression on potential customers, as 90% of people searching for a brand have yet to make up their minds when starting their search, Felix aimed to create a brand that welcomed runners and featured high-quality shoes at reasonable prices. As a result, her website is simple, streamlined, elegant, and provides easy access to a myriad of products. She also launched an online community, the Saysh Collective, to demonstrate her brand's commitment to focusing on the person wearing the shoes rather than the profits.

Shoeography: Olympian Allyson Felix Breaks Ties with Nike and Launches New Shoe Company

Felix's brand has so far been a success. Her first run of the shoe sold out quickly, partially due to the quality and also due to her name recognition. While she knows that competing with Nike (which earned $12.3B in their most recent quarter alone) is not likely, she just wants to create a viable alternative for people who don't want to support the brand that snubbed her and so many other athletes.

Nike and many other shoe brands often have the ability to change compensation or drop athletes for various reasons, as long as they stay within the agreed-upon contract. While they cannot drop athletes outside of their contract or for no reason, the compensation package is often a one-way street, one that athletes often feel they have little ability to change.

Felix's step could inspire many more athletes to launch similar competitive companies in an attempt to cut into Nike's market share. However, she has not held back in her efforts here, as the Saysh One utilizes a lightweight design that mixes jacquard textiles and microsuede elements to produce a very comfortable sneaker. Designed primarily for female athletes, it has a supporting heel piece, a simple lacing system, and an appealing overall look and feel.

Many in the industry are calling this move a bold and innovative concept, one that blurs the line between sponsorship and athletic competition. Whether the shoes succeed or not is mostly a moot point. Once someone takes a step like this and proves that it is possible, the marketplace is likely to change. The next few years could see a variety of different shoes coming out, funded and designed by athletes for athletes. Like Felix, they'll focus on overcoming inequality and economic disparities in the market.

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