Skechers, the makers of Fit Flops and the debunked Shape-Ups “fitness shoes,” has signed a marketing deal with California Chrome, such that the brand will be the apparel of choice of the thoroughbred’s handlers, will appear on California Chrome’s blanket, and will make its way to the winner’s circle if the horse wins the Triple Crown on Saturday. Sources say it’s the largest deal since UPS spent major bucks on a deal with Big Brown in 2008.
“We’re spending a couple bucks to the roll the dice and if this horse wins it all, we’ll be part of it,” said Skechers CEO Robert Greenberg. He said the company will spend about $175 million on marketing this year.
If California Chrome wins, it’ll be the first time in 36 years that a horse has taken the Triple Crown. For a company that expects to take in $2.2 billion this year, this is a gamble on history that is worth taking.
Moreover, it’s a targeted marketing move. Skechers has been seeking out a slightly older shopper and the average age of the Triple Crown TV viewer, according to ESPN, is 50-to-60 years old. The company just resigned 71-year-old Joe Namath as a spokesperson.
“We just watched Meb Keflezighi win the Boston Marathon wearing Skechers Performance shoes in April,” said Steve Coburn, one of California Chrome’s owners. “So we know SKECHERS has a good track record when it comes to picking winners in high profile races.”
And the owners want to capitalize on their prize horse’s name recognition while they can. They’ve signed with sports marketing firm Leverage Agency as well as Meticulous Talent Management for marketing and sponsorship deals.
If history is any indication, California Chrome’s chances of taking the prize on Saturday could be diminished by a bit of exhaustion. According to Newsday, the last eight Belmont winners didn’t compete in the Preakness.
But more than winning or losing is the question of whether people will draw the connection between horse racing and Skechers. Big Brown and UPS is kind of clever. Skechers and California Chrome don’t have quite the same connection. But if he wins, people will be staring at photos of the Skechers logo on the winning horse for a long time.