Lauren Fleshman Joins Oiselle in Partnership Aimed at Creating New Products, Opportunities & Messages for Female Athletes
January 1, 2013 – Seattle, Washington – Oiselle, a rapidly growing women’s running apparel company has officially signed professional runner Lauren Fleshman as a sponsored athlete and business partner. The announcement comes shortly after Fleshman requested a release from her contract with Nike, a 9.5 year term during which she achieved two US Championship titles (5000m; 2006, 2010), became 7th in the world (5000m, 2011), and ran a NYC Marathon debut of 2:37 (2011).
As Oiselle starts its seventh year in the market, it has established a strong customer base and market presence, including 300+ retailers that carry the expanding brand. The 90% year-over-year annual growth over the past four years establishes the brand’s increased presence. Oiselle’s mission is to design apparel for the “whole woman athlete,” with styles that work in every aspect of her life. Luxurious fabrics, flattering silhouettes and modern graphics that are more gritty than girly are all part of what sets the brand apart.
Simultaneously, Fleshman has grown one of the largest followings of any American distance runner. Lauren's blog, Ask Lauren Fleshman, is among the most read and well-respected blogs in the industry, receiving an average of 7,500 visitors per blog post with readers in 127 countries. Adding to the synergy is the fact that Fleshman is also an entrepreneur, having co-founded two businesses during her running career. PickyBars is a gluten and dairy-free energy bar company founded with her professional triathlete husband Jesse Thomas and professional runner Stephanie Rothstein. Believe I Am is an inspirational line of tees, journals and accessories that empower female athletes, and it is co-founded with good friend Roisin McGettigan, Both are well recognized and well received companies in the athletic space.
"Oiselle's fashion-forward clothes and spicy brand first caught my attention in 2010, and I've had my eye on them ever since,” said Lauren Fleshman. “They represent everything I want in an apparel brand: great clothes that blend performance with fashion, an intimate company with a strong sense of sisterhood, and a commitment to women runners unlike anything I've seen in the industry.”
Oiselle and Fleshman see 2013 and the years beyond as full of opportunity both personally and professionally. Fleshman recently announced that she and Thomas are expecting their first child in June. For Oiselle, the opportunity to embrace and sponsor a pro athlete even as she transitions to motherhood is a major part of the brand’s core values.
“We’ve been super fans of Lauren for quite a while. We’re not alone of course - she is admired around the world," said Sally Bergesen, Founder + CEO of Oiselle. “For me, her appeal comes down to a mix of straight-up, world-class athleticism plus a very real, very down-to-earth persona. She makes anyone who follows her – young, old, fast, slow – feel connected, as we share in the ups and downs of not just running, but of life. We’re over the moon that we get to work with her; she is both a hero and friend.”
In addition, Oiselle and Fleshman have recently looked for ways to engage with the professional running industry on the issue of USATF-mandated logo restrictions, as well as Rule 40, which bars professional athletes from mentioning their sponsors during the Olympic Games. These issues are currently being challenged by a wide range of supporters, from the athletes themselves to new organizations that seek to represent and protect pro- athlete interests.
"It's an exciting, interesting, ripe-for-change time in our sport”, said Bergesen. “Both Lauren and Oiselle have experiences in this area. Ultimately, we want to be a part of positive change moving forward. What's at stake is both the vitality of the sport we love, as well as pro athletes' ability to make a decent living. If we can create even the beginnings of a new model for that, it will be a huge win.”
In a unique move, the Oiselle/Fleshman partnership will go beyond the traditional sponsor/athlete model. In addition to being a sponsored runner, Fleshman will also be a Oiselle stakeholder, spokesperson, collaborator on product development and brand marketing, and participant in Oiselle events. After 2013, Fleshman plans to re-enter competitive running, with the goal of competing in the 5000m at the US and World Championships and making the US Olympic Team in 2016.
Fleshman will continue pursuing multiple interests during her partnership with Oiselle, including a successful writing career that is likely to span both the publishing of a book as well as a dedicated columnist in a national running publication.
For Oiselle, upcoming seasons will see the company continue to push the pace. 2013 will include the release of dozens of new running styles, new proprietary fabrics, as well its most comprehensive sports bra offering to date. In just three years, Oiselle has more than doubled its product line as it responds to the rapidly growing demand of women who seek both quality and design.
“Sally Bergesen and her team became friends that I admired from afar and dreamed of working with, and I'm still pinching myself that it's happening, “ said Fleshman. “This is going to be an incredible next four years. Anyone who doesn't know of Oiselle yet, hang onto your hat!"