Last weekend, Brooks Running celebrated their 100th anniversary with the official opening of their new headquarters in Seattle, Washington. The festivities included everything from a Duckboat tour of the sights and ornate parties with fresh organic food, to a relay race through Olympic Sculpture Park in downtown Seattle. Guests attended a panel discussion about the future of competitive running, that included athletes and coaches with first-hand experience in the sport. Showcase rooms displayed the latest research and development coming from the mind of it’s creators, and a history of 200 years of running. In addition, a sneak peak was provided to those hungry to know what’s around the corner for Spring 2015.
While waiting for my turn to dodge the sumo wrestlers and jugglers on the 1k course, Friday morning, I had the chance to chat with some of the attendees. The amount of enthusiasm and loyalty for the brand was not surprising, considering the crowd was comprised of employees, retailers and various other Brooks partners. What did surprise me was why they were so enthusiastic. Phrases like, “social responsibility”, “environmental sustainability” and “loyalty to runners” kept coming up in casual conversation. What has been mocked as hipster buzz words or advertising gimmicks in the past, have seemed to finally begun the movement into reality. I maintain that any company can run a socially conscious business, but the reality is, they won’t make as much money. Abusing the planet and its inhabitants is cheaper, for now. Thankfully, the number of companies willing to go through the effort to find a better way seems to be growing, as well as the support of consumers who appreciate this effort.
It’s no secret that professional athletes of all sports are in the midst of a mass migration away from giant conglomerate athletic companies. They’ve been very vocal on social media and personal websites about the need for a more ‘human experience’; often taking large pay-cuts to go with sponsorships from much smaller companies that match their ethical ideals. Two-time Olympic sprinter, Nick Symmonds (at right) is part of this migration; and happily admits that the move to the Brooks Beasts Track Club was a wise step. In addition, seasoned Brooks athlete and Ultra-Marathoner Scott Jurek is so pleased with his relationship, he has every intention of continuing his partnership for some time, (fans of the Cascadia can now breathe a sigh of relief).
So, why does this matter to the consumer? It’s very simple- as long as there are companies, like Brooks Running, that are genuinely focused on improving the lives of runners through high-quality products and events (like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series), customers will have a voice. The end result is an experience that is more like a partnership with the consumer; where designers listen and respond with adjustments, year after year. The leadership at Brooks Running has settled on being one of those rare businesses, who places corporate responsibility just above the bottom line. I am cautiously optimistic that these ethics can be maintained, despite the company’s rapid growth. With their focus properly set and proudly waving their “Run Happy” banner, I believe the future for Brooks is a bright one. As they put it themselves, “We’re building something big, something extraordinary, and it’s all about the run.”
I see that as a legitimate reason for all of us to celebrate. I’d really like to see them stick around for another 100 years, a girl can always use more running shoes!
For more information about Brooks Running, go to: www.brooksrunning.com