The Beer Mile Goes Pro: New Shoe Deals Could Mean Bigger Things for the Niche Event

Dec 16, 2016

The third annual Beer Mile World Championships will be held in Austin Saturday. As the sport continues grow, new deals may take the beer mile to whole new level.

The rules for the beer mile are simple enough. Drink a beer, run a quarter mile, drink another beer, run another lap. If you repeat that two more times, without throwing up, you have officially completed a beer mile. The beer mile rules were codified in Canada in the early '90s. But lately, it’s had a bit of a renaissance, thanks in part to the Beer Mile World Championships.

That renaissance was spurred in part by Austin-based streaming startup FloSports to get more people to talking about, and streaming, track and field. In the process, it’s got a lot more people talking about the beer mile, moving the sport(?) to a whole new level of legitimacy by giving runners the chance to become sponsored, professional athletes.

Louis Kent won last year’s championship and is a former world record holder. He is in his second year under contract with Brooks Running. And the current world record holder, Corey Bellemore, just signed a deal earlier this month with Adidas.

Brooks is no stranger to sponsoring elite runners like past-Olympians Nick Symmonds and Desiree Linden. The company's Senior Sports Marketing Manager Jesse Williams says it’s exciting to see what may come of the beer mile and the partnership with Kent.

“To see what it’s become in the last couple of years and to see the star Lewis has become kind of within that event has been really fun,” said Williams. “It’s just new. It’s getting a lot of new people to pay attention to running.”

This year, Brooks made a custom version of its Hyperion shoe for Kent to use, complete with illustrated beer suds on its insoles. (They are red for the Ontario native’s Canada.)

“I found out last week that they’d be getting in just in time for the race,” said Kent. “It’s a really cool feeling to know that a company is behind you like that to be able to make a custom shoe for you.”

And by just in time, he means it. They were shipped directly to his hotel here in Austin.

Kent made his big splash in the beer mile last year when he unseated 2014 champ Corey Gallagher by shattering the five minute-beer-mile barrier. He then set the bar higher at the 2015 event, breaking his own record.

Beer miler Corey Bellemore at pre-race festivities at Flo Sports offices. He will compete in his first Beer Mile World Championships race this year.
Credit Jimmy Maas / KUT News

This past summer, Corey Bellemore, a collegiate runner in Winsor, Ontario, seemed to follow Kent’s road to success. He shattered the world record at an event in London with a time of four minutes and 37 seconds – beating Kent’s time by 13 seconds.

Bellemore’s deal as a “developmental athlete” with Adidas was announced at the beginning of the month. He says it’s due a little more to his success in more traditional track events.

“So it’s more like they saw progress in my results and obviously they took a chance and based it more on track and field than the beer mile, said Bellemore. “But obviously, the beer mile exposure helped them formulate some sort of deal with me.”

As for how for this goes in the future, no one – even those closest to the sport – is sure.

“If there’s somebody that’s going to give a leg up to a beer miler and try to get more people interested in our sport, I’m glad we were the company that jumped on that,” said Williams. “It’s just something that’s fun.”

According to official numbers from beermile, com, 10 years ago, there were 5,000 official runners entries in various beer mile events around the world. Last year, there were nearly three times that figure. The number of participants has doubled since FloSports streamed its first championships two years ago.

FloSports has also grown with the sport. Starting with a base of streaming track, swimming and wrestling events, the Austin-based company now streams 21 different niche channels dedicated to what they call “communities,” ranging from rodeo to video games to marching band.  

“Companies are putting energy into outfitting these athletes and working with them because they’re seeing how much exposure they’re getting through this event,” said Ryan Fenton, general manager of FloSports’ sub-channel FloTrack. “And so that speaks volumes, not only in us knowing the reach, but now people that are in the in sport of running understanding the reach.”

And now with even more elite athletes taking up the beer mile, we may see even more sponsors – perhaps from a more obvious sponsor – beer companies.