It's a story we've heard time and again: young prospect on the cusp of greatness signs huge sponsorship deal. Sometimes it pays off (see: Michael Jordan and Nike) and sometimes it doesn't (see: Lance Armstrong and everything).
This is the final victory of our brand-obsessed sports culture: Skechers has signed a sponsorship deal with California Chrome. A shoe company. Signing a shoe deal with a horse.
Granted, this is a special horse, one that's won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and is on the verge of winning the first Triple Crown since 1978. But the horse won't actually wear sneakers, at least not until the inevitable feel-good Disney movie. Instead, Skechers will slather its logo on everything the horse comes in contact with as it prepares for its Triple Crown run this weekend at the Belmont Stakes.
It's part of a skewing-older strategy for Skechers, which has in its sponsorship stable (Ha! Get it?) such graying athletes as Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Pete Rose. Financial terms were not disclosed, but it's apparently the largest sponsorship deal since UPS aligned itself with Big Brown in 2008. (One thing Brown couldn't do, apparently, for you or anyone else: win the Triple Crown.)
"Nike is religion for a lot of kids, so it's a tough market to break through," Robert Greenberg, Skechers chief exec, told ESPN. "We're going after an older audience."
Given the fact that California Chrome's hold on the national imagination can be measured in minutes, expect Skechers to do everything this side of fire-branding the horse to get its name out there. After all, it's not like the horse is going to declare for the NFL draft or hit Vegas with Johnny Manziel, even though that would be amazing.