NEW YORK, United States — Meb Keflezighi will be running many more miles in Skechers.
The 40-year-old American marathoner, who will run in the U.S. Olympic Trials on Saturday, agreed to an extension of his contract with Skechers Performance through 2023, according to Rick Higgins, senior vice president of merchandising and marketing for the line. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
While not quite LeBron James’s lifetime deal with Nike Inc., this seven-year extension is unusual because it ties Skechers USA with Keflezighi beyond the end of his racing career. It speaks to his stature in the running community, Skechers Performance spokeswoman Jolene Abbott said. “He’s become such a face of the sport as a whole,” she said. “People look up to him and admire him. Even when he’s not competing, he’ll be a voice in the running community.”
His value to Skechers USA won’t disappear when the runner retires, said Merhawi Keflezighi, Meb’s brother and agent. "Meb’s going to be even more available to make appearances and be a brand ambassador," said Merhawi. "Moving forward, he’ll be able to engage with more runners, engage with more people."
Meb Keflezighi has been sponsored by Sketchers since 2011, after he was dropped by Nike. The same year, Keflezighi set a personal record at the New York Marathon. The next year, he ran another personal best at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, then finished fourth at the 2012 London Olympics.
The runner’s relationship with Skechers, though, went largely unnoticed until he won the 2014 Boston Marathon. It was the first victory by an American man in more than 30 years and coincided with the one-year anniversary of the bomb attacks on the race. Keflezighi’s win dramatically raised the profile of Skechers Performance, then a relatively new division of Skechers U.S.A. Until then, the Manhattan Beach, California-based company was better known for casual shoes for adults and light-up shoes for kids.
The day Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon wearing GOruns, Skechers shares gained 1.9 percent, amid a broader surge in its stock. The company then created a series of shoes for its champion and called them GOmebs. Later that year, the company successfully wooed Kara Goucher, one of the highest-profile U.S. women marathon runners who had been formerly sponsored by Nike Inc.
Both Keflezighi and Goucher are scheduled to compete in the Olympic trials, on Feb. 13, in Los Angeles. The top three men’s and women’s finishers in that race will represent the U.S. at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It is a big weekend for the shoe company, which sponsors the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon the day after the trials, Feb. 14. Skechers Performance signed on as the race’s title sponsor last year.
Keflezighi is already considering life post-competition. He is the vice president of running at Competitor Group Inc., which owns the "Rock ’n’ Roll" series of marathons and half-marathons. In that role, he helps develop training plans, makes appearances, and sometimes trots with the pack of recreational runners in the races.
Skechers shares hit an all-time high of $51.30 in mid-2015, then plunged last year after quarterly sales missed analysts’ estimates for the first time in two years. The stock closed Friday at $27.66.
By Jason Kelly; editors: Janet Paskin, Kevin Miller.