Skechers Ponies Up On California Chrome

Performance horseshoes aren’t among Skechers product offerings — at least not yet — but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming the first marketer to sign Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome to an endorsement deal. If the 3-year-old adds the Belmont Stakes to his victories at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness next week, California Chrome will become the first thoroughbred since Affirmed in 1978 to win all three major races.  

If he doesn’t, however, he’ll be an also-ran in the fame game.

“We’re a marketing company that just happens to be in the footwear business,” Skechers’ CEO Robert Greenberg tells ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell. “We’re spending a couple bucks to the roll the dice and if this horse wins it all, we’ll be part of it.”

Indeed it will. A victory will “mean … a spot in American sporting history, and, surest bet of all, a movie. If they can make money flogging sentiment from the 80-year-old memory of Sea Biscuit, California Chrome is the sort of box-office that keeps Hollywood in cocaine,” writes Brian O’Connor in the Irish Times.

“Already the script is so full of corn it could be fed to chickens: a product of a $2,500 sire and an $8,000 mare so undistinguished only a dumb ass would buy her, California Chrome is owned by two ‘working Joes’ who race under the name ‘Dumb-Ass Partnership,’” O’Connor continues.

“So who’s the dumb ass now?” Jerry Bossert asked in the New York Daily News after California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby last month. “Mocked for buying a supposedly worthless mare for $8,000, co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin laughed all the way to the winner’s circle.”

DAP, as it’s abbreviated, has filed to trademark California Chrome and has hired New York-based sports marketing firm Leverage Agency and California-based Meticulous Talent Management to handle marketing and sponsorship deals, Rovell reports.

Skechers logo will appear on California Chrome’s blanket during the Belmont, which will be televised live on NBC starting at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. “Martin, Coburn, and the horse’s trainer Art Sherman will also be decked out in Skechers garb for the race,” reports James Emmett on SportsPro.com.

“‘We just watched Meb Keflezighi win the Boston Marathon wearing Skechers Performance shoes in April,” said Coburn, before forcing logic by suggesting, ‘so we know Skechers has a good track record when it comes to picking winners in high-profile races,’” writes James Emmett.

CEO Greenberg says “while the deal is a visibility play, it’s also an age play,” ESPN.com’s Rovell writes. “The median age of the Triple Crown television viewer skews older, matching the 50- to 60-something consumer Skechers has increasingly targeted by using former athletes like Joe Montana.”

“Nike is religion for a lot of kids, so it’s a tough market to break through,” Greenberg said. “We’re going after an older audience.”

California Chrome’s trainer Sherman fits nicely in that demographic. When it comes to any forthcoming flick-in-making, he “seemed to have all the details worked out, including which actor will play him in the movie,” writes Janie Carr in the Orange County Register.

“‘I’ve already talked to Joe Pesci and he’s going to play me,’ the 77-year-old trainer said. ‘I really think it’s a great story for a movie.’”

In another unusual tie-in to the race, the Santa Anita, Calif., racetrack “is having some fun with the nasal strips worn by” California Chrome and “will give fans free souvenir nasal strips Saturday,” reports The Associated Press. “The track where California Chrome has run some of his races is also giving the first 10,000 fans with paid admission a Belmont button that says ‘Bring It Home California Chrome.’”

Other celebrities who tout Skechers collections include The Voice winner Danielle Bradbery, TV personality Brooke Burke-Charvet and entrepreneur Mark Cuban, according to the company’s corporate website. And last month, it announced that it had signed Pete Rose, the legendary but controversial baseball star, for a Relaxed Fit Skechers footwear campaign that will break in the fall.

Rose, who holds the all-time MLB records for hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), and singles (3,215), has been banned for life from baseball’s Hall of Fame, however, for betting on baseball games while he was active. He is also known to like the ponies (one of whom carries his name).

There’s no word yet if Rose and California Chrome will appear together in a spot but we wouldn’t bet against it.

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