By Darren Rovell, ESPN Senior Writer
Running shoe and apparel brand Asics signed track star Jarrion Lawson to an endorsement deal Thursday.
Terms were not disclosed but a source familiar with the deal told ESPN the deal was the largest signed for a male track athlete by Asics.
Lawson enters this week’s Olympic trials with a shot to qualify for the Olympics in three events. He won the 100 and 200 meters and the long jump at the NCAA outdoor championship earlier this month, the first to win three events since Jesse Owens accomplished the feat in 1936.
“If you are looking for track endorsers to generate return on investment dollar for dollar, they won’t do that,” Asics America CEO Gene McCarthy said. “But we are looking to make our brand younger and faster, and signing people who are younger and faster is one way to do that.”
Aside from the 22-year-old Lawson, Asics signed 16-year speedster Candace Hill in December to a 10-year deal.
Asics, which has the second highest market share in performance running behind Nike, has spent a lot of money sponsoring marathons and marathon runners, but McCarthy said that the average age of marathon participants is 38.
McCarthy said the brand will continue to invest in marathons, but said he felt the need to attempt to make the brand more youthful.
At Arkansas, Lawson was required to wear Nike and he hasn’t worn Asics in his career, but he said that the company’s commitment to him throughout their talks comforted him, even though he’d only have a couple days to get used to the products before the Olympic trials.
“I’m comfortable with the long jump shoes and I really feel ready to go in my sprint spikes,” Lawson said.
Lawson said the bonuses in the Asics contract, which pay him more if he wins more, serve as extra motivation to perform.
The brand is relying on a boost after one of its biggest endorsers, Lolo Jones, dropped out of the trials Wednesday.