Let me first start by saying that Specialized’s decision to pick up Eric Lagerstrom as an ambassador is a great move for them. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
Before we do that, though, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. It's not a secret that Specialized is in the news recently for major changes to ambassadorships, their bike lineup, and their workforce. It's also not a big secret that some parts of the cycling world are in trouble, driven primarily by over inventory. That isn’t just too many bikes, but sadly too many people – employees, subcontractors, and also sponsorships. So why am I talking about this when this is supposed to be about a sponsorship announcement? Because when you are in a position like the bike industry was for the last couple of years, and you’re the size of Specialized, you tend to have thrown spaghetti on the wall just to see what sticks.
I want to express my heartfelt thoughts to all those people and really anyone that has been caught up in it all. I have a couple of friends that were recently let go from the company. Athletes and employees alike. It was shitty to hear as I know they really loved their jobs and or partnerships. But let's keep something in mind. It was because of smarter moves in the past that allowed Specialized to hire those people in the first place. And what I'm hoping is that these (and other correct) moves will allow maybe even some of those same people a place to come back to in years to come.
Now, back to Eric Lagerstrom.
Let’s say that there are approximately 500 triathletes worldwide who currently hold a pro card. (I'm not 100% sure on the number right now, being honest, but stay with me.) If I'm a brand in the sport, I have anywhere from 400 to 499 of them at any one time knocking down my door looking for sponsorship. Emailing, calling and praying that somewhere somehow they are going to get someone to give them something for free. And some of those athletes don’t just want something for free, they’re looking for money. Yet we all know the current financial picture of many of these brands.
So why sign Eric Lagerstrom now?
Simple: because winning isn't everything when it comes to a well rounded marketing campaign. Our industry is finally learning that. You can have someone that wins all the time, just like you can sponsor someone with a million followers on TikTok. But if the end consumer can't relate to the athlete, then the athlete is simply a bad investment. (Editor’s Note: That million followers on TikTok is probably the better investment between those two examples; you don’t get followers without putting out content people want to engage with.) Eric Largerstrom has turned himself into what I would call a really good investment.
Why? I first met Eric in person in 2019 when I was hired by Shimano to do some filming with Heather Jackson, Ben Hoffman, and Eric. He and Paula Findlay were staying in Tucson for the winter and when I reached out without any hesitation they let me know they had an extra room so I wouldn't even need to rent a hotel. Over the course of that week began what I consider a great friendship. Over the years since I have spent a lot of time with Eric and I have watched him make really tough decisions when it came to his personal brand. And when I say tough. I meanhard. Hard in the way of, “let’s do things that take a lot of time to do because in the end I believe in them.” Just a few examples:
–Making a video for That Triathlon Life every week so that fans have something to watch.
–Building an apparel website
–Putting on popup sales to be able to personally meet fans/consumers
–Setting up monthly coffee collaborations with local growers
–Creating a weekly podcast.
Eric (and Paula) just do not stop. In my opinion, Eric knew a while back that his chances of winning the biggest races were getting slimmer. But that didn't stop him from putting everything into his craft. Don’t get me wrong – Eric is a great athlete with some outstanding wins and I'm sure will have some more in the future. What his true gift is, though, is creating connections with people. At his core he is just trying to make everything cool again.It’s something I sometimes tease him about but also something I greatly admire. He holds on tight to the triathlon lifestyle many of us fell in love with, where winning isn't everything; when building bikes, hanging with your friends and trying out new races was a passion project. That mindset grows the sport.
I'm going to repeat myself: while I disagree with some of Specialized’s current actions, I think adding Eric Lagerstrom is a great move. I'm really excited for this partnership and seeing Eric with a brand that he loves, one that can offer him everything he needs to keep inspiring people to get outside and try new things.
Disclaimer. This post is not sponsored in any way, shape, or form. This is just me excited about something that is happening with a friend that I feel is good for our endurance community.
Photo Credit: Samantha Weald