NEW YORK — While gamblers betting on California Chrome to cinch a Triple Crown victory at Saturday’s Belmont Stakes failed to cash in, Skechers’ sponsorship of the thoroughbred led to a major media windfall.
Chief executive officer Robert Greenberg said, “We were on 400 TV shows in one day. What’s the value of that — my God.”
Skechers was approached about a potential sponsorship by the Leverage Agency, which hooked up the brand with an endorsement deal with marathoner Meb Keflezighi, who won the Boston Marathon this year. But it took seven days of negotiations with California Chrome’s owners before the pre-Belmont deal was struck, Greenberg said. Noting that the horse’s owners adopted the nickname “Dumb Ass Partners” skeptics once gave them, Greenberg said, “I’m not saying they’re dumb but that was a tough one.”
Skechers spent $300,000, not “millions” as some analysts estimated, he said. The idea of imprinting “Skechers” on the nasal strip California Chrome wore at Belmont had been discussed but there was concern that visual distraction “would screw him up,” Greenberg said. Skechers will throw a party for the California Chrome contingent later this week once he returns to his home base of California. The prospect of designing California Chrome sneakers and clothes has been suggested but Greenberg does not see that happening. By chance, Skechers’ “Chrome Dome” style was the brand’s first big break in 1993.
The company typically spends between $160 million and $170 million on advertising each year. Last week’s international publicity should help Skechers stay on track to generate between $2.2 billion and $2.3 billion in sales this year, Greenberg said. A 20 percent annual gain is projected, as was the case last year. Describing Skechers as a marketing company that is in the athletic footwear and performance apparel business, Greenberg said international sales, retail sales and domestic wholesale each comprise one-third of the total volume. Of 1,000 stores worldwide, the brand owns 400, and the remaining 600 are franchised or joint ventures. Having launched performance activewear last year, Skechers currently attributes 85 percent of its total sales to sneakers sales, Greenberg said. The California Chrome tie-in should help further its branding.
Greenberg said, “A win would have been spectacular. There would have been pictures in the winner’s circle. Other than that, I’m thrilled. There has been nothing negative about this one.”