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In 2018, when Allyson Felix was renewing Nike’s seven-year sponsorship while being pregnant, Nike cut her pay by 70% and would not make any guarantees if her performance dropped due to giving birth. How Allyson Felix responded was significant in five ways:
1. Allyson did not just shut up and take a huge pay cut solely on the grounds of pregnancy. She and other female athletes like Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher complained about Nike and the entire sports endorsement industry’s poor maternity treatment of women in the New York Times. They pushed for changes because Allyson Felix had shown her belief in Nike’s core principles by her initial sign-up with Nike even though she could have signed elsewhere for more money. If Nike scored a home run with backing Colin Kaepernick, this time Nike failed to walk the talk, – the “talk” was a Nike-sponsored initiative called the “Girl Effect” that promoted teenage girls as the key to improving societies worldwide (and potential Nike customers). Nike fumbled the ball.
2. Allyson found a new sponsor called Athleta, a women-focused apparel company owned by Gap, as their first sponsored athlete. Thanks to Allyson and other female athletes’ demand for changes, brands like Burton, Altra, Nuun, and Brooks came up with new contractual guarantees for women who have children while being supported by their sponsorships. A few days later, Nike also changed their maternity policies and allowed pay-protection for female athletes during pregnancy and childbirth. The company also states that they may not terminate an athlete if she cannot compete due to pregnancy.
3. It took tremendous courage for Allyson Felix to stand up to a big corporate sponsor like Nike, which she described as “terrifying”. She felt they were “more than disrespectful and tone deaf”. She also did not just settle for another sponsorship with Athleta, after she succeeded in pushing Nike to change. SHE CREATED HER OWN SHOE BRAND. Allyson said: “I’ve been asking for change and speaking up, and it just got to a point where I needed to create that myself.”
“…the one thing that really gave me the courage was being the mother of a little girl,” said Allyson. Her daughter and the women of the next generation are better off, thanks to what she did to get corporate sponsorship on her terms and for all female athletes.
4. After a life-threatening C-section birth of her now-2-year-old daughter, Camryn, she regained her speed from sixth place to world champion, surpassing Usain Bolt for the most golds by any athlete in history. Allyson proved that motherhood is not the end of an athletic career.
5. She also launched a $200,000 fund to cover child care costs for other Olympic mom-athletes.
As a brand builder and marketer, I am thrilled that she won her last Olympic medals in Tokyo running in her own brand of running shoes, “Saysh”. What a fantastic symbol of our internet era – every INDIVIDUAL can develop his or her own brand. Brand power no longer belongs only to big corporations.
Allyson Felix is a pioneer for this new age of women-empowerment, by standing up for what she believed in, by voicing, fighting for, and supporting what is right for herself and other women. Her audacious efforts have made our world a better, gentler and kinder place for women, children, men, and humankind.
For those who want to build their own business brands (B2B or B2C), professional LinkedIn brands, or personal brands, please visit our website 10PlusBrand.com, or call 1-888-288-4533.
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