Colleen Quigley: The Free Agent
By: Patrick Larson
Colleen Quigley made headlines in February when she announced that she would be leaving the Bowerman Track Club as well as Nike. Leading up to the Olympic Trials, Quigley is currently being coached by Josh Seitz who coached her while she was a student-athlete at Florida State.
Quigley is one of the favorites to make the Olympic team in the steeplechase making her one of the most highly touted free agents heading into the Trials. For anyone who follows her on social media, Quigley is incredibly good at making her marketable to various brands who have signed endorsement deals with her.
While Quigley was not the most accomplished runner on Bowerman Track Club, she is certainly one of the most, if not the most marketable and valuable athletes to an apparel/shoe brand. In a recent newsletter she said:
“I know many of you are wondering who my new sponsor will be after I announced in my last newsletter that I decided not to resign with Nike at the beginning of the year. Believe me, I'm as excited as you to share the news! And we are sooooo close! What I CAN say is that my sponsor will be female-focused and dedicated to empowering and celebrating WOMEN 365 days out of the year. They are excited to help me with my mission in and out of sport and I know we will do great things together (with your help too, of course!).”
Alright, so knowing this information I’m going to outline the top three companies that I think will sign Colleen Quigley.
In their mission statement, Athletea states, “We’re here to empower women and girls,” which clearly aligns with Colleen Quigley’s priorities. However, the main reason I have Athleta as the most likely to sign Quigley is because they recently signed Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles who was previously on a Nike contract. In her press release, Biles said “I admire Athleta for their commitment to recognize and support women’s individual and collective strength.” In addition to Simone Biles, Allyson Felix made similar waves when she left Nike for Athleta last year. Clearly Athleta has the budget to shell out some serious cash for athletes/celebrities like Simone Biles and Allyson Felix and I think it’s indicative of their ability to do the same with Colleen Quigley. Another reason I believe Athleta makes sense for Quigley is because they currently don’t make competitive running shoes. So why is this a plus? Well, presumably Athleta would provide Quigley with dedicated shoe money and allow her to train and race in whatever shoes she wanted. In many ways, to have this flexibility given the volatile nature of shoe technology would be incredibly liberating.
Similarly to Athleta, a Lululemon sponsorship is a bit out of the ordinary for a distance runner. Lululemon started as a yoga brand but in recent years has been expanding into the running universe. In fact, they currently list Canadian marathon champion Rob Watson as a global ambassador. Lululemon currently doesn’t officially sponsor any professional women’s distance runners and Colleen Quigley could be a good athlete to start with. Similar with Athleta, Lululemon is the type of company that would have the budget to support and athlete like Quigley.
Of the three brands I have listed, Oiselle makes the most sense from a pure running perspective. Unlike Athleta and Lululemon, Oiselle is a dedicated running brand that touts the slogan “by and for women.” Oiselle is a relatively young company but has found success in the running world as the premier brand for women. They have a history of supporting some extremely high-caliber athletes including the likes of Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman, and the women of the Raleigh Distance Project. While Oiselle has grown significantly since launching in 2007, they are not nearly on the same level as Athleta or Lululemon when it comes to annual revenue. I bring this up because an athlete like Colleen Quigley who is in her prime and likely looking to secure an Olympic spot this year will come with a high price tag. In 2020, Lululemon generated $4 billion in revenue, Athleta brought in $1 billion, and Oiselle had just $10 million in revenue. When compared side by side, it's apparent which companies would be able to spring for an athlete like Colleen Quigley.
A common theme among Oiselle, Athleta, and Lululemon is that they are not part of the traditional running brands that also produce shoes. These three choices were intentional as I think there is a low chance that Quigley chooses to sign with a major shoe company like Adidas, New Balance, Asics, etc.
If I’m completely wrong in a few weeks, I encourage everyone reading this to DM me on Instagram telling me how wrong I was.