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Volume 22 No. 19
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Spartan Race conditions itself for loss of Reebok as global title sponsor

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Spartan Race does not expect Reebok to renew its global title sponsorship when it expires later this year and is searching for a replacement, founder and CEO Joe De Sena said. He thinks the rights are worth at least $15 million annually.

The Adidas-owned shoe brand signed a five-year deal in 2012 and has been “fantastic partners,” De Sena said. But the rights have grown in value as Spartan Race expanded, and Adidas is restructuring Reebok and cutting costs.

“Reebok would like to continue with us, and we’d love to continue with them, but we are so much larger now than we were in late 2012 when we signed the deal,” De Sena said, “and with the additional pressure of Adidas, I just don’t think they can get to a place where we need to be.”

In a statement, Reebok expressed confidence in its Spartan Race relationship but declined to comment on its future.

The obstacle race brand has hired ESP Properties to help sell the rights. De Sena said they’re targeting other major shoe and apparel brands, tech companies and automakers.

Terms of the 2012 deal are unknown, but annual participation in Spartan Race events has grown from 350,000 then to 1 million today. It operates events in 30 countries. De Sena arrives at his $15 million threshold by comparing Spartan Race’s brand footprint to that of New York Road Runners, which sold its New York City Marathon title sponsorship and top-tier exclusivity to Tata Consultancy Services for more than $12 million annually in 2013. “I would argue our customers are much, much more engaged 365 days a year with our brand,” he said.

Separately, Spartan Race has created the Spartan Race Stadium Series this year and is selling a sponsorship to that property as well.

The series comprises seven three-mile obstacle course races held at major league stadiums, starting May 13 at Citi Field in New York. The concept is not new, having first been tried at Fenway Park in 2012, but this year’s series is the biggest yet.

In 2017, the Stadium Series is coming to two new venues: Lambeau Field on June 24 and Nationals Park on July 22. It’s making return trips to Citi Field; AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (June 10); Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (Oct. 7); Fenway (Nov. 4-5) and AT&T Park in San Francisco (Nov. 18).

The stadium events are loss leaders, De Sena said, but are useful business development tools by reaching urban markets and people not willing to sign up for the more intense core Spartan Race experiences. Also, it gives Spartan the chance to exploit a temporary association with the home team in each park.