The small town of Eugene hosts the world athletics championships until July 24. The city is the epicenter of American athletics. The birthplace of Nike too. When it comes to organizing reference competitions, sponsors are sometimes great assets.
After a year of waiting longer than expected, due to the postponement of the Games, the World Championships in Athletics his big comeback from this Friday. With a competition that returns every two years, the international meeting does not have the aura of the Olympics. This edition is nevertheless one of the most awaited.
It is almost historic. For the first time, the competition will take place on American soil. It was Eugene, a small town in Oregon of barely 170,000 inhabitants, which was chosen for the occasion. The place is well known to the biggest lap fans. Also called Track Town, the city is the benchmark for athletics in the United States. A title that the city owes in part to a comma. Eugene is where Nike was born. Just 50 years ago, it was there that Philip Knight and Bill Bowerman set out to create their first pair of shoes.
This beautiful past has necessarily played in the selection of the city. Seven years ago, when it came to making a choice, the athletics federation could not avoid controversy. At the time, in the wake of Sebastien Coe’s nomination as President, Eugene was chosen as the host city, without passing any vote as is normally the tradition. The president’s CV, however, indicates a line which is not really an argument of objectivity. For nearly forty years, he has been an ambassador for Nike, which pays him more than 140,000 euros per year. The BBC will reveal an exchange of emails showing Coe’s preference for Eugene, but no official proof will ultimately be provided. In order to calm things down, the president will decide to give up his post as ambassador.
The Austrian GP is held in the stronghold of Red Bull, which owns the circuit and a team. The kind of details that we probably do not forget when renewing the racing calendar.
The influencers Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Wanty
The iconic choices carried by a well-established brand are not exceptional in the world of sport, however. In 1996, the Olympics moved to Atlanta, the birthplace of Coca-Cola, one of the most important sponsors, which has supported the Games since 1928. On the Formula 1 side, the Austrian Grand Prix is held in the stronghold of Red Bull, which is also the owner of the circuit and the main sponsor of one of the best teams in the championship. The kind of details that we probably do not forget on the side of the FIA when renewing the racing calendar. Currently in balance with the GP of France and Spa, the GP of Austria is more than likely saved for next season.
On a smaller scale, the influence of sponsorship was also seen here during the passage of the Tour to Binche, one of the seats of Wanty. “The fact that Binche is the city of a World Tour team taking part in the race is an interesting additional element in the application file”, explained Christophe Wanty, the company’s boss.
If Nike is undoubtedly delighted, let us recall however that the main sponsor of the event is well Asics. Partner for years of the World Athletics Championship, Asics renewed its contract in 2019 and obviously takes advantage of this passage with one of its biggest competitors to further consolidate its position in the world of athletics. The marketing stunt is brilliant.
Brand new little box
Eugene also has many other arguments to put forward than his relationship with the reference brand. The small town is the stronghold of American athletics. The site is also the one that usually hosts the American championships and the national qualifying competitions for the Games. The setting is very modern with a stadium renovated for more than 270 million dollars, disbursed by 50 benefactors, of which Knight was the most generous. With only 25,000 seats available, the stadium is the smallest in ages to host a world championship and is far from the 40,000 seats usually requested by the international federation.
The American organizers play the card of reason, recalling the images of previous international meetings with understaffed stadiums.
American organizers play the card of reason, recalling the images of previous international meetings with understaffed stadiums. In 2019 in Doha, Coleman for example celebrated his 100m title in front of less than 5,000 people. The American craze will probably be much more important than the Qatari, but nothing is certain. In the United States, athletics is far from king. According to the Wall Street Journal, it ranks seventh among the most popular sports, far from untouchable football, basketball and baseball. Even golf is more popular.
At the sporting level, the world’s gratin is at the rendezvous with the presence of emblematic names such as Armand Duplantis, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Noah Lyles, Marcell Jacobs and Allysson Felix who will make his last strides. On the Belgian side, the delegation has thirty athletes. Nafi Thiam will be keen to recover his world title which eluded him in 2019. Bashir Absi in the marathon, Noor Vidts also in the heptathlon and the tireless Tornados in the 4X400 relay are the other greatest Belgian title chances.