The 51st Mt. SAC Relays, which open at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., tomorrow, will take on the air of a reality TV show this year thanks to an innovative promotion by Puma, the official footwear and apparel sponsor of the meet.
The winner of Friday night's invitational Puma Mile, also known as the "Unattached Mile", will receive a one-year Puma sponsorship, including $3000 in Puma gear and $3000 in travel expenses. It's "American Idol" for middle distance runners.
"Puma's sponsorship of the Mt. SAC Relays gives us the opportunity to give young elite runners a true brand experience," said Tara McRae, Director of Sports Marketing for Puma North America, in an e-mail message. "As part of our ongoing efforts to support young runners, the Puma Mile is a new concept that gives runners a chance to be sponsored by Puma. We felt this was a unique way to help inspire young runners, and support the young running community."
Puma's offer of a sponsorship is particularly timely, as athlete sponsorships have been severely cut this year. This is partly a cyclical effect --typical after an Olympic Games-- but also driven by difficult economic conditions in the United States. Dozens of track and field athletes, especially distance runners, saw their sponsorships reduced or ended this year.
At the recent U.S. Indoor Championships, the top-2 finishers in the men's 3000m, David Torrence and Brandon Bethke, ran without sponsorship. Torrence has since been picked up by Puma, the company said.
Twelve men will be entered into the race, but the list of entries has not yet been made available. There will be special coverage at Flotrack at this link: Flotrack.org.