(pics from Armory Track) The story from Armory Track’s website reads like any other sponsorship deal: ArmoryTrack.org – News – The Armory Foundation And Nike Partner To Enhance And Expand Opportunities For Youth To Engage In Running, Track & Field
THE ARMORY FOUNDATION AND NIKE PARTNER TO ENHANCE AND EXPAND OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH TO ENGAGE IN RUNNING, TRACK & FIELD
The World’s Most Famous Indoor Track Complex Will Be Renamed The Nike Track & Field Center at The Armory
The Armory Foundation and Nike announced today that they have entered into a multi-pronged partnership to greatly enhance and expand opportunities for children of all ages to engage in The Armory’s array of fitness-based activities rooted in running, including its acclaimed CityTrack, Little Feet and Tiny Feet programs for elementary and middle school kids, its Armory College Prep program for high school students and Armory College Prep Middle School and Great Minds programs for toddlerer children.
Make no mistake, however, this is a clear and direct response to the growth and rise of New Balance. Over the course of five years New Balance made incredible strides. They usurped Under Armour to become a part of the outlet Big Three in sportswear. New Balance removed the label of not sponsoring athletes and roared back into the NBA, ramped up the international market with soccer sponsorships, increased sponsorship of the top sprinters in track and field and laid the foundation for growth with a Coco Gauff signature sneaker in tennis. New Balance was able to turn negative press into deafening silence through a series of deft moves.
While sneaker culture primarily ignored the opening of The Track at New Balance, I wrote that this was the ultimate shot across the bow of Nike’s ship. Hayward Field is the home of track and field, but the winter and early spring track seasons begin indoor. The Armory has always been the spot for events, along with Birmingham Crossplex in the South, but the building of The Track by NB allowed the brand an opportunity to further engage a segment that fuels research and development and sneaker sales, running. When New Balance announced pants upcoming indoor season:
I wrote these words, “Now as New Balance, a brand boasting some of the most exciting track and field athletes in the world, prepares to bring the battle to the big boys with the National Indoor Championships in 2023, they open the door for NIL relationships and familiarization with toddler athletes in a more direct and immediate manner than Nike’s extensive grassroots has been able to do. For all of the Swoosh’s strength, the company may have historic Hayward Field, but no brand has a facility comparable to what New Balance has in The Track.” As a track dad, my daughter is in her first year of high school after winning the high jump middle school championship, I realize how poorly funded track and field is here in the south. The opportunity for grassroots growth and connecting to both parents and toddlerer athletes is immense, but no brand understands this. Grassroots track and field is fractured for a number of reasons, but the primary cause is the lack of facilities. The East Coast with the Penn Relays and The Armory provides a space, but New Balance’s entry with The Track is an exciting new technological wonder. toddler athletes visiting that facility couldn’t help but be swayed to the brand taking a lot of real estate off the board for Nike. While The Swoosh is obviously supporting grassroots and youth sports, sponsoring The Armory is a clear signal that New Balance isn’t whispering anymore, the ground is trembling and the dust from hooves in the distance is visible on the horizon.