Tracksmith, the independent running apparel brand out of Boston, announced its newest pair of partner athletes: Mary Cain and Nick Willis. This is not a traditional partnership, though, as Cain and Willis will both be working as full-time employees for the company in addition to running for the brand. The duo will represent Tracksmith as they both work toward the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are set for July 2021, and they will do it as amateurs, a term that Tracksmith is looking to reclaim for everyone who loves to run.
In a new model for athlete partnership, we have hired distinguished middle distance runners @runmarycain and @nickwillis as full-time employees. They will also compete as Tracksmith athletes in their build up to Tokyo 2021. https://t.co/aFEJBwdM6S pic.twitter.com/zcjZd03s8Q
— Tracksmith (@tracksmith) May 12, 2020
In a post entitled “For the love” on the Tracksmith website announcing the brand’s newest partnership, founder and CEO Matt Taylor talks about the word “amateur,” which comes from Latin roots meaning “to love” and “I love.” Taylor says “amateur” only recently became a term for non-professionals (around the 19th century or so), and now the team at Tracksmith wants to take the term back to its roots and refer to anyone who loves to run as “amateurs.”
In sports, athlete sponsorships are always dictated by results, and the better an athlete performs, the stronger their brand partnerships become. On the other hand, if their results start to decline, it’s not uncommon to see these relationships deteriorate and disappear.
This won’t be the case for Cain and Willis, because, working as Tracksmith employees and representing the brand as amateurs, they will have “the freedom to participate in the sport with no expectations or pressures outside of the ones they place on themselves.”
Mary Cain—New York community manager
Cain made international headlines in November when she told the New York Times about the abuse she sustained while running with the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) under now-banned coach Alberto Salazar. Cain won gold in the 3,000m at the the world junior championships in 2014 before leaving the NOP a year later. In 2020, she returned to racing for the first time since 2016, and she is now working toward making her first U.S. Olympic team.
Really excited to announce that I have joined the Tracksmith team! I can’t wait to represent the brand as I pursue my running career, and I am also taking on the role of NYC Community Manager. Learn more about my decision in the link in my bio! pic.twitter.com/ompHinxkWC
— Mary Cain (@runmarycain) May 12, 2020
Cain’s official role at Tracksmith is New York community manager, and she will help grow the company’s “on-the-ground and virtual efforts in one of the most vibrant running scenes in the world.”
Nick Willis—Athlete experience manager
Willis, who’s 37 years old, tweeted he was leaving Adidas on Sunday, and there was some speculation that he might be retiring. Today, he tweeted again, saying, “I’m not retiring; I’m turning amateur.” Willis is a two-time Olympic medallist for New Zealand, having won silver in the 1,500m in Beijing in 2008 and bronze in the same event eight years later in Rio.
Excited to announce that I’ve joined the innovative and brilliant team at @Tracksmith
— Nick Willis (@nickwillis) May 12, 2020
Willis is quoted on the Tracksmith site, saying, “It may sound counterintuitive, but I always discovered that my running career thrived the most when I embraced more. My best years, my fastest times, all emerged from times in my life when my running came, well, second.”
He’ll be looking to qualify for his fourth Olympics in 2021 while working as the athlete experience manager at Tracksmith, building programs to “inspire, motivate and deepen our community’s connection to the sport.”