Fast Company Innovation Festival: Allyson Felix on sponsorship

Allyson Felix made headlines when she took dwelling but another gold medal in Tokyo this 12 months. With 11 medals to her establish, Felix had set a model new doc, making her primarily essentially the most embellished American monitor and space athlete in Olympic historic previous.

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Felix has been uniquely influential off the monitor, too. Whereas pregnant in 2018, she found herself mired in a dispute with Nike over the phrases of her new sponsorship contract. After two former teammates spoke out about their very personal experiences with Nike, Felix revealed in a New York Times op-ed that Nike had proposed slashing her pay by 30% after she was pregnant—a proposal she wouldn’t accept. Amid most of the people pressure, Nike in the end launched a new maternity policy that secured protections for pregnant athletes, which barred the company from making any reductions in pay for 18 months or terminating a contract if an athlete declined to compete whereas pregnant.

A few months after going public alongside along with her story, Felix inked a new deal with girls’s activewear mannequin Athleta. It was a main for Athleta, as a result of the mannequin had on no account sponsored an athlete sooner than. Nonetheless Athleta moreover observed it as a risk to reimagine the connection between athlete and sponsor.

“We received all the way down to completely rewrite the playbook for athlete sponsorships,” Athleta CEO Mary Beth Laughton talked about all through a panel on the Fast Agency Innovation Competitors, the place she appeared alongside Felix. “An infinite part of that’s, to begin with, partnering with individuals who have shared values with us—[that’s] so, so important—nevertheless then moreover truly wanting on the companions as full people who accomplish that a variety of their lives and are, in actual fact, excellent athletes, nevertheless are moreover mothers and entrepreneurs and activists.”

That means not solely offering athletes the additional typical elements of a partnership, like product collaborations, however moreover empowering them to adjust to their completely different passions, whether or not or not that’s by the use of social justice work or content material materials creation. “Allyson positively has an unlimited seat on the desk, giving us her insights and her voice and her components of view on the product [and] all of the items else,” Laughton talked about, “and we so welcome that.”

Felix’s latest mission with Athleta was an notably non-public one. Principal as a lot because the Olympics, Felix labored with Athleta and the Girls’s Sports activities actions Foundation to launch a $200,000 grant which may help cowl childcare costs for athletes who’ve been competing. (The grant recipients, who’re being awarded $10,000 each, will be launched in October.) “I received right here once more immediately from having my daughter once more to opponents,” Felix talked about. “I observed firsthand how troublesome that’s and the best way you need to be supported. I take into accout going to my first world championships [when my daughter] Cammy was 10 months outdated, and the issue of bringing a toddler that youthful overseas. I had a roommate. How does that work? How are you breastfeeding?”

Though Felix has the help of a sponsor like Athleta, the similar isn’t true for quite a few athletes—notably people who go to the Olympics. For athletes who can’t depend upon a worthwhile sponsorship deal, a childcare stipend may presumably be invaluable. “It was so important to have the power to start to do one factor about this and really attempting to shift the enterprise,” Felix talked about. “We hope that that’s simply the beginning—that we’re in a position to truly change one of the simplest ways that points are carried out.”

Felix’s advocacy for athletes who’re mothers mirrors an even bigger growth in sports activities actions, one moreover embodied by the likes of Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, every of whom have talked overtly about their struggles with mental health. (Biles moreover occurred to depart Nike and sign with Athleta earlier this 12 months.) “I actually really feel identical to the world is altering,” Felix talked about. “Before now, we haven’t given athletes so much room to have the power to look human. They’re presupposed to be invincible, they often’re presupposed to be so strong.”

Nonetheless athletes like Felix are using their platforms to usher in an interval of upper honesty and transparency, and to remind most of the people that athletes have lives previous their sport. “For the longest time, I truly thought that folk solely cared about my effectivity,” she talked about. “Over time, I’ve grown and clearly matured, and it was by the use of my very personal experiences that I lastly found my voice. Becoming a mother was most definitely one in all many largest methods wherein occurred, and interested in my daughter and the world that she’ll develop up in made me actually really feel like, ‘Okay, I wish to try this.’” | Fast Agency Innovation Competitors: Allyson Felix on sponsorship

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