October 15, 2014

An open letter to Stonyfield, a Boston Marathon Sponsor

Dear Stonyfield Corporation,

On Monday evening there was a firestorm of activity on twitter and Facebook following a blog post that was on your home page.   As a sponsor of the Boston Marathon 2015, you were given some race entries and someone at your company made the decision to choose eight female bloggers to run the race in April.  How you chose these bloggers and why you made the choice to field this team is somewhat of a mystery to those of us who are not employed by the company.  It would be very interesting to hear how and why the decisions were made.

 From the information I could gather from a very quick Internet search, only three of the bloggers listed have qualified for Boston during their running careers with one of them having to miss the event due to a pregnancy.  That leaves five individuals who will be running the race, without a prior Boston Qualifying time.  While that may seem like no big deal to people who do not run, that is not so in the running community.  Boston is the pinnacle of marathon races and most people work very hard for years to earn a qualifying standard for the race.  And if they did not earn a qualifying standard, they work hard to raise a substantial amount of money for a Boston approved charity to "earn" that spot at the starting line. For the 2015 race, 1,947 qualified runners were turned away due to field size limits.

With further Internet research, I discovered that you were also the sponsor of the 2014 Boston Marathon and offered ten spots to runners who had qualified for the race but were unable to get a spot.  From the press release from January 2014, "Runners in the 118th Boston Marathon will have new fuel powering their strides as Stonyfield, the world's leading organic yogurt maker, takes its place as an official sponsor. As part of its sponsorship, the New England company is forming Team Stonyfield, allowing qualified runners who missed the entry cutoff for the historic race to participate. Runners looking to join Team Stonyfield can enter for the chance to win a spot at www.stonyfield.com/teamstonyfield."  You can read the full story here.

What a thoughtful and perfect way to give those runners an opportunity to run the most prestigious marathon in the world.  Their stories are remarkable and it is wonderful that they had the chance to realize their dream. 

It is extremely disappointing to see that you have "sold" your spots to those bloggers who you hope will benefit your company.  I hold no animosity towards these individual mothers/runners/bloggers, but cannot understand how you would not consider the mother bloggers who have met the qualifying standards, or perhaps repeat last year's gesture and open spots to runners who qualified but were unable to get a spot due to the field size cut off.  Besides the three BQ mamas that you chose, here are some additional runners that quickly came to mind: Kass from The Lone Runner, Kristin from StuftMama, and Dorothy from MilePosts. There are plenty of fast mother runners out there who balance family, work, and running.  I bet any of those that make up the 1,947 runners who were shut out during Boston registration would kill for a spot to toe the line in Hopkinton next April.


Sincerely,
Pamela Keenan
Boston Marathon Qualifier for 2015 and on the Entrant List of the B.A.A.  

52 comments:

  1. Catching up on the Stonyfield now, thank you for sharing your letter Pam - I completely agree with your points listed to Stonyfield

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    1. Thanks Jenny. I am just really sad for that group of runners that qualified and will not have a chance to run next year.

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  2. It will be interesting to see how/if they respond to you. Keep us posted, please!

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    1. Of course I will, but I don't expect any response.

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  3. I'm sorry, I'm confused, at the risk of being the satan of the running world, can't companies decide who they want to sponsor and give race entries away to? "those bloggers who will benefit your company" Last I checked, that was the whole point of them partnering with bloggers in the first place, you know, to benefit their company, like Rock n Roll does all the time.

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    1. No, you are not satan at all. I just feel that better choices could be made given the importance of the Boston Marathon. Any other race this would not bother me. Runners work too hard to qualify.

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  4. I had not heard of this. I think it is great that they did allow those folks who qualified but just missed getting in run in 2014. That was a generous offer and they should have continued that tradition instead. FYI Kristin (stuftmama) did run the Boston marathon this year.

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    1. Yes, I knew that Kristen ran last year. She would be a perfect blogger for them since she qualifies and has run the race.

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  5. Oh, and I just wanted to say that inviting bloggers to run makes no sense. It's not as if this race needs anymore publicity! (Sorry about the double post) -M

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  6. I agree that it would be helpful to know what the qualifications were and how they went about selecting the bloggers that they did. Stonyfield isn't the first company to offer bloggers the opportunity to run a race in return for blog and Social Media promotion, but as many have pointed out, those opportunities are usually for races far less prestigious than Boston, and certainly much easier to get into. Whether or not people support the bloggers that were chosen (which seems to be one of the biggest debates in the comments on Stonyfield's blog right now), I do feel bad for those bloggers who did BQ and are being overshadowed by what appears to be negativity and hatred towards a couple of other bloggers.

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    1. Kathryn, I have no problem with bloggers getting offered races, etc. But Boston is just different. And the fact that so many qualifiers do not get spots is upsetting.

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  7. Good stuff Pam - as a runner who will probably never BQ (I'm not fast enough and that's ok!) I would hate to take a spot of a runner that had earned it but was denied because of space limits.

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    1. Thanks Kristen. It is hard to watch the qualified runners get passed over....just makes me sad.

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  8. I wrote a comment on their website myself. I would have absolutely no issues if they did the same thing as previous years or if the runners they were sponsoring ran for charity. I have no disrespect for any of the woman they chose but it seems like Stoneyfield could have chosen other choices and included more woman who have children that have qualified for Boston.

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    1. Very unlikely Jennifer. I just needed to state my point. It is so sad that so many runners that qualified do not get spots. I would be devastated if it were me..

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  10. I was really taken aback by this whole Stoneyfield thing. On the one hand, I am not surprised by their choices (I mean, it isn't like other companies don't do the EXACT same thing with their campaigns). But on the other hand, I think that Boston, and marathoning, is a totally different level than sending someone to a blogging conference or weekend away. Boston is the golden badge. There is a reason that we work so hard, we put our blood sweat and tears into it. It shouldn't just be given away to the highest bidder.

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    1. You said it perfectly. Boston is the golden badge and runners work years to achieve and sometimes never achieve the time standard.

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  11. Well written!

    If it were any other race, I wouldn't care - but Boston is special. I wouldn't even be able to say that I am "a Boston Marathoner" if I didn't BQ or raise the $4000++ dollars

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    1. Thanks so much Rebecca. It is helpful to read comments by others that share my view. As I mentioned in my post, the ill will is directed at a company that did not thoroughly consider the ramifications of "gifting" an entrance to the biggest race for runners.

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  12. I see your side but I have to say that I disagree. I say they can do what they want with their race entries. I realize that it is Boston but at the end of the day it is their race entries to do what they wish with and 10 people are not going to detract from the event at large.

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    1. You are absolutely correct Betsy. The company has the right to do whatever they want with their entries. For me, it is just sad that qualified runners lose out because of these types of "gifted" entries. I worked so hard to earn my spot as did the 1,947 runners who qualified and did not get a spot due to the course size limitations. As you stated, it will not detract from the event, but for those people who qualified and did not get an opportunity, it is terribly disappointing.

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  13. I totally agree with you. I'm not a marathon girly and nobody much reads my blog, but if I did not qualify and was offered an entry from a company, I would not take it.

    I have read several bloggers who missed the cutoff, and they would love to have these entries and would promote Stoneyfield on their blogs as well, it would have been a better move for the company to have bloggers who missed the cutoff apply...

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    1. Thanks Amy. It is hard to imagine they could not have found plenty of mother bloggers who qualified that would promote them. I could list a few in just a minute.

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  14. No way...that's crazy! I'm a runner and a blogger but no where near fast enough to qualify for Boston - I would feel incredibly out of place with this race. I agree with you, Boston is the "ultimate" marathon and an achievement a lot of runners strive to accomplish. Thanks for sharing your letter and your thoughts!

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    1. Thanks Karen, I don't think you would be out of place, but that is a whole other story!

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  15. Um I am slow and would never take a Boston spot from someone who qualified.
    Excellent Post!

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    1. Thanks Julie, but I don't think you are slow!

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  16. Boston is a race I will never run. Not because I don't want to, but because I don't feel it right running a race I am not qualified for. It just doesn't seem like this was well thought off. There are plenty of people they could sponsor that are qualified that would be able to promote their product and represent the Boston Marathon.

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  17. Very interesting. Had no clue this was going on.
    I personally won't ever run Boston, because I won't BQ. However, I would love to go cheer sometime.

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  18. Whoa, wait a second...are you saying *I* wasn't one of their chosen bloggers? Pffffft

    I jest, of course. Seriously, though, I agree with you. While on the one hand, I suppose the company can do whatever they want with those entries, the Boston Marathon is, well, THE BOSTON MARATHON. It's a the gold standard of marathons. It just seems like bad PR. Boston doesn't need bloggers to promote their race.

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    1. Sorry you did not get one of the bibs Jamie....maybe next time! Joking of course!

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  19. I'm kind of torn on this one...I see your point, but I also think there are probably plenty of sponsor companies who give their bibs to employees or have some other way of distributing their bibs to people who are not Boston qualifiers and we just happened to hear about this one because they went to bloggers who of course are promoting the fact that they got a bib.

    I guess I don't really have a strong opinion on it either way (maybe because I'm no where near a BQ time??), but that being said I don't think I would accept one of these bibs.

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    1. I think the fact that stony field made such a big deal about it was the reason I felt compelled to write this letter. Yes, life is not fair, and lots of bibs are distributed to whoever the sponsor feels like giving them to. In thesis case, stony field is making a big campaign with their bibs.

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    2. Ahhh, interesting. To be honest other than this post I haven't seen a thing about it!

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  20. I just want to give you and this post a standing ovation.

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  21. I'm confused. Stonyfield is providing the dinero here. Shouldn't it be their prerogative to pick the recipients of their sponsorship? Why should they have to justify their decision making? I know it's OMGBoston, but Kona (IM World Champs) has similar sponsorship arrangements. Lots of big races do. You mention that some of the sponsored runners haven't BQed. So? Let's not pretend that the world of running bloggers (or the world in general!) is governed by fairness. Running bloggers who are far from elite athletes make money and score free gear all the time, while many legitimately talented runners (who don't blog) struggle to pay their entry fees and buy new shoes. If you want to criticize Stonyfield's decision, then go for it. But know that leveling the critique at one specific company's decision (as opposed to the whole sponsorship system) makes you seem petty.

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    1. I won't delete your comment because you have every right to your opinion. However, since you chose to comment as anonymous, there will be no reply.

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  22. I'm kind of bummed to read this. I am well aware that Boston is a prestigious race and would love to run it one day but I am also aware I am never going to be fast enough to qualify. It would be a great honor for a brand like Stonyfield to give me an opportunity to run this race. I have been an athlete for 20+ years and will never be an elite runner. It's sad you think that certain people don't deserve to run a race because in your eyes they aren't good enough.

    Also remember, aside from those who qualify, there are many charity runners.

    I do appreciate your opinion though. Everyone is entitled to have one.

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    1. Actually Lynette, i never said those bloggers were not good enough. What I said was I thought that other runners would be a better choice. It is the most prestigious marathon in the world and with so many qualified runners not getting a spot, I thought some of those 1,947 would be thrilled to get a spot. As you stated, there are loads of runners who will never qualify for Boston and spend a lot of time raising money for charity so they can toe the starting line in Hopkington.

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  23. This is something that has been happening for years... especially with Boston-based businesses for the Boston Marathon. The same thing happens around the NYC marathon, they have 150K people who apply to run it, only choose about 50K, yet there are corporate sponsors who can give their entries to whoever they want, whether they applied in the lottery or not. It's just a matter of who you know and your connections... like how that person you work with somehow got a better job than you with way less experience. It's just life.

    I qualified for Boston last year and didn't get in because my time wasn't fast enough for that year. It didn't make me mad to know that others who hadn't qualified were running the race. Instead, it made me want to fight harder to qualify instead of taking away from someone else who, even if they didn't BQ, had the opportunity to run this amazing race. So, yes, I fought harder, got a faster time, and am happy to say I'll be back for my fourth Boston in 2015. I will be lining up with people who have qualified and others who haven't, but no matter how we got there, we're all there for the same reason -- because we love running and we want an opportunity to run the greatest marathon in the world (as corny as that may sound).

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    1. Yes of course I am aware that bibs are given out at all the big races as the corporate sponsors see fit. As you pointed out, life is not fair in the workplace or in the world of race bibs. Congrats on getting back to Boston in 2015. That's a huge accomplishment to qualify and run 4 times.

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  24. I agree, and to be honest, I think that Boston needs to cut down the number of charity entries they allow. This is THE most prestigious marathon and people who have worked hard to BQ can't even get in because of this. I was determined to run for a charity last year, but then after some soul searching decided that I will NOT ever run for a charity. This is a race I want to work hard for and know that I earned my right to run there in my home town.

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  25. As a YoGetter Stonyfield Blogger and New Hampshire resident I have to say that I completely disagree with your criticism of Stoyfield. In fact, I think it lacks perspective. Stonyfield employs many people who live in the towns around me, they are a key player in our local economy. Their success (as in increased sales) directly affects the families they employ and the farmers they get milk from. I believe that it is entirely their prerogative to pick bloggers which they think will be beneficial to their bottom line. It is good business. If they didn't make decisions based on their revenue then they would be failing their employees. It may be easy to criticism them from behind your computer for the bloggers they chose, but I have been to the plant, I have visited the dairy farms where they buy milk from and there are real people working for this company who are focused on producing a quality product that falls in line with their values. Please keep in mind too that Stonfyield is an incredibly generous company, they sponsor many local races in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts and have been a huge supporter of my fundraising efforts for the Children's Hospital at Darmouth-Hitchcock.

    As a runner and someone who tried to qualify for Boston for 11 years before finally achieving that goal this spring, I find it sad that people in the running community have let snakiness and jealously taint the marathon itself. So many people are so focused on fairness when the reality is that sometimes it seems unfair. You could even argue that the qualifying times are "unfair." But I guarantee that the people who are there running, regardless of whether they earned their spot, fundraised for their spot or were generously given their spot; they are thrilled to be there just because it is Boston. The truth is that the corporate sponsors of the event are given hundreds of bibs and they or their PR agencies are at liberty to hand out those bibs. In fact, thanks to a friend who worked for the PR agency managing John Hancock I received one of those bibs in 2011 and ran as an unqualified runner. I felt incredibly blessed. I savored every minute of that experience because after so many years of trying I honestly didn't know if I would ever make it there on my own. With a lot of hard work I did qualify by over ten minutes this spring and it was an incredibly satisfying feeling. As a Stonfield Blogger I was asked to be on this team and declined for a family related conflict, I won't be running Boston in 2015 as a qualified runner or with Stonfyield. It is possible that there were other bloggers who were also asked and declined, unlikely maybe, but possible.

    Most of the criticisms I have seen of this blogger team come across as if the blogger is personally insulted that they weren't picked. I would encourage you to shift your perspective. Think of all of the possibilities and all of the factors a play here, especially the business perspective.

    (Even though I am a Yogetter Stonyfield Blogger this is should not be considered a response from the company I am not employed by them and was not asked to write this. I am simply bothered by the criticism I have seen both of Stonyfield and of the bloggers personally and feel the need to say something. )

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