Over the weekend in Northern Ireland, two-time Olympic silver medallist from Kenya, Hellen Obiri, surprised the running world by winning the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Silver event, but not while wearing a Nike singlet. She was instead representing On – a brand that has recently been taking the world of athletics by storm, growing their team of elite-level sponsored athletes, including Canada’s Ben Flanagan.
A year and a half ago, On launched its first professional team, called On Athletics Club, coached by American distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein. “You need world-class athletes to build world-class products,” says Steve DeKoker, On’s head of global sports marketing. “Our goal is to build On as a global brand, and we need world-class athletes to help us develop.” Obiri’s signing is a huge acquisition for the Swiss sporting brand – she is the only athlete ever to win a world indoor, world outdoor and world XC title.
“We want people that will fit the brand’s competitive values,” says DeKoker. “Both Obiri and Flanagan checked those boxes.” In her debut race wearing On product, the defending world cross country champion won the 8K easily in 26:44.
Obiri will head to the World Athletics Memorial Agnes Tirop XC race in Eldoret, Kenya on Feb. 12, before taking a shot at another 5,000m medal this summer at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Ore. “She will move up to the marathon distance in the fall of 2022,” DeKoker says. “And we will have our new premium-plated racing shoe on display for her debut.”
“The full expectation is to develop and supply our athletes with the top-of-the-line product to enhance their performance,” says DeKoker. “There are multiple On super-spikes scheduled to be released this year, with Alicia Monson potentially racing in a pair this weekend at the Millrose Games.”
Run On Clouds.@on_running
— Ben Flanagan (@bennyflanagan) January 15, 2022
Both Monson and Flanagan are two recent NCAA champions that DeKoker had his eyes on since they won their titles in 2018 and 2019. “When we found out Flanagan’s contract was up with Reebok, we knew we wanted to support him,” DeKoker says. “We feel he will have the Canadian half-marathon or marathon record in no time.”
For now, the brand plans to go all in to be competitive with the top distance brands on the roads and track, then dipping their feet in the sprint distances for the 2028 LA Olympics.