California Chrome Owners Sign Sponsorship Deal with Skechers

Dan CarsonTrending Lead WriterJune 2, 2014

AP Images

Like so many other bettors, Skechers is laying down big money in the hopes that California Chrome will complete the Triple Crown.

Darren Rovell of ESPN reports the shoe company has inked a deal with California Chrome’s owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn that will make Skechers the official brand of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion.

Yes, a race horse is now sponsored by a shoe company, but rest easy—they won’t be switching out Chrome’s metal shoes for Shape-ups.

Rovell reports the sponsorship will include mostly small, cosmetic touches. Skechers branding will be featured on the colt’s handlers, "fly sheet" blanket and on the feet of all members of the team should Chrome win the Belmont Stakes and complete the Triple Crown.

In other words, if Chrome’s owners are standing in the winner’s circle Saturday, they’ll be wearing Skechers shoes.

Martin and Coburn at the Kentucky Derby
Martin and Coburn at the Kentucky DerbyDavid Goldman/Associated Press/Associated Press

Skechers chief executive Robert Greenberg says the sponsorship is all about getting the company name in front of their target demographic: older Americans.

“Nike is religion for a lot of kids, so it’s a tough market to crack through,” Greenberg told Rovell. “We’re going after an older audience. ... We’re spending a couple bucks to roll the dice and if this horse wins it all, we’ll be a part of it.” 

Skechers won’t reveal the dollar amount of its arrangement with Chrome, but Rovell reports the figure will break all previous records for corporate horse sponsorship.

“Terms were not disclosed, but a source with knowledge of the deal said it's the largest deal in horse racing since UPS paid IAEH Stables to advertise on Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown in 2008, Rovell writes.

Should Chrome win, the victory will come as Skechers’ second marketing coup of 2014. The shoe company hit the jackpot in April when Skechers-sponsored long-distance runner Meb Keflezighi became the first American male to win the Boston Marathon since 1983.

Meb Keflezighi
Meb KeflezighiCharles Krupa/Associated Press

Thirty-eight years old at the time, Keflezighi could be called an underdog much in the same vein as Chrome, who was once considered the longest of long shots at racing glory. His owners paid $8,000 for the foaling rights and had little reason to expect so much success from the product of an unheralded bloodline.

Their small gamble is reaping huge benefits, and Skechers is just the latest to jump feet-first into the movement that is California Chrome.

Considering the origins of this horse, a shoe sponsorship can’t be called the strangest thing Chrome and its crew have experienced. This is just another day in the life for an unlikely beast and its screwball owners.


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