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sports business

4 mins read

How Olympian Allyson Felix Built Her Own Multi-Million Dollar Shoe Brand

Allyson Felix has made a name for herself in Olympic sports and business. Coming on the professional track scene in 2004, she has established a name for herself as a humble professional and businesswoman with solid core values.

Allyson Felix

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Allyson began her professional athletic career early. By 18, she had already earned a silver medal in the women’s 200-meter sprint at the Athens Olympics.

Today, she is the most decorated track and field athlete. A 5 time Olympian with 11 Olympic medals under her belt, Allyson has carved out a lane for herself and the many women she inspires with her athletic and entrepreneurial prowess.

Allyson Felix

Disrespected by Nike, Allyson Felix Fights Back

Allyson held sponsorship and endorsement deals with Adidas and Nike throughout her career. As a result, she was one of the most marketed athletes in Nike’s history. However, after going through a difficult pregnancy, she would discover that her sponsor to whom she was loyal, did not have fair practices surrounding maternity protections. This experience was a cause Allyson was prepared and determined to fight.

Black Olympian Fights for Maternity Protections

Giving birth to her daughter in 2018 was a life-threatening experience for the successful athlete. Experiencing pre-eclampsia, a condition that disproportionately affects black mothers, she had an emergency c-section eight weeks early.

As a result, she gave birth to her daughter Camryn who weighed only 3 lbs. This experience would be the catalyst for the fight she would encounter as a fierce advocate for the rights of athlete moms and females in general.

Following the expiry of her contract in 2017, Nike wanted to pay Allyson 70 percent less in her sponsorship deal than they did before her pregnancy. Shocked and disappointed, Ms. Felix publicly shared her experience, drawing awareness to female athletes’ unfair realities in the male-dominated sports industry.

As a result of her advocacy, Felix was able to inspire other female athletes to speak out about the unfair experiences they have had. In doing so, Nike was forced to change its maternity policy for all its athletes in August 2019. In addition, the enhanced maternity protections guarantee pay and bonuses for 18 months around pregnancy. Other athletic apparel companies have since followed suit.

Allyson Felix

Olympian Secures New Apparel Deal with Gap Inc.

Despite having no sponsorship representation during her last national championship appearance in 2019, Allyson forged ahead and boldly chose to overcome one of the biggest obstacles in her career. She realigned herself with an athletic brand that she believed shared her core values. As a result, she entered into a sponsorship deal with Athleta (owned by Gap Inc.) to sponsor her apparel. This deal made her the first sponsored athlete under the brand.

Felix’s Multi-Million Dollar Footwear Brand

Determined to continue making an impact for women, Allyson Felix successfully launched her female-focused shoe brand, Saysh, in 2019. Saysh’s core mission is “to undermine inequality with female athleticism and creativity.”

In May 2022, the brand successfully secured a multimillion-dollar deal in a round of funding that will enable them to expand its product offerings. The investment will help further the cause to design and offer shoes designed especially for women’s feet. The company will also be able to provide more maternity protections to its workers, increase its e-commerce presence, and expand its wholesale distribution.

When Nike tried to take her seat at their table, Allyson Felix chose to build her boardroom. Kudos to this fearless champ!

Tony O. Lawson


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2 mins read

Naomi Osaka Becomes First Professional Woman Athlete To Open Her Own Sports Agency

Four-time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka has announced that she is launching her own sports agency, Evolve.

naomi osaka

“I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional,” Osaka said in an email. “Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way.”

Osaka’s contract with IMG expired at the end of 2021, and as she explored a renewal with more flexibility in the kind of partnerships she could do, it became clear a renewal was not going to work.

Osaka started Evolve with her agent Stuart Duguid, who has also left IMG. Both will hold equity stakes in Evolve. There are no outside investors at this point.

The move isn’t unprecedented for athletes, though it’s rare.

LeBron James started LRMR for his marketing work in 2006 and entrusted close friend Rich Paul with his on-court contracts, while Maverick Carter handled business off the court.

Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinman founded Thirty Five Ventures in 2016 to operate the business of the four-time scoring champion.

However, Naomi Osaka is the first female athlete at that level to take full control of her business endeavors and attempt to build an agency.

In a recent statement to Sportico, Duguid said, “The core of Evolve is building Naomi’s business from $50 million a year to $150 million a year.”

 

Tony O. Lawson


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