Sunday, November 30, 2014

Clif Bar’s Decision To Drop It’s Sponsorship Of 5 Climbers

Dale Matson

As someone who has participated in several endurance sports for many years, I have consumed countless Clif Bars to avoid 'bonks' and return from bonks. In the early 90’s there was not much to choose from. For me, Power Bars were hard to chew especially in cold weather. Clif Bars were more palatable and easier to chew. There was also the sentimental but confusing ‘hook’ on the wrapper about how Clif bars started. While the wrapper showed a climber suspended from a rope, the bar was actually named after the founder’s father Clif.

Clif Bars are now gluten free and the ingredients are organically grown but they taste about the same to me. Clif Bar is on Facebook too. The marketing is keeping up with the times even if the product may not have kept pace with other energy gel formulations. I remember a friend giving me a Vanilla Bean GU packet on a long run and I thought I had taken on rocket fuel. I put four packs of GU in my Race Ready shorts pockets this year in my final marathon. I went away from Clif Bars when products like Hammer Gel came along. I ran Western States on Hammer Gel, Whatever appealed to me at the aid stations and lots of Snickers Bars. I did Hawaii Ironman on Hammer Gel. When Powerbar energy gels became available I included them on hikes and backpacking.

I think the company has done a good job of marketing the Clif Bar and they have made an effort to target to the trendy, politically correct age cohort their product appeals to. After all “…it’s about the winding road-not the destination-that drives Clif Bar.” Really? That sounds rather casual for the athletes they are sponsoring to go faster, longer and higher than ever before. They have a ways to go because while their paper caddies are made from recycled paper, the wrappers are not and they are not biodegradable either. Additionally, “Organic” Clif Bars are only 70% organic.

To sum thus far, I have a long history with Clif Bars as a consumer and have moved toward products that I feel are superior. I have always been an amateur athlete who has done what I have done for the sheer challenge and joy of it. I am a middle of the pack athlete. Much of Clif Bar marketing is directed to a target audience that purports to be environmentally conscious and trendy. The company’s decision to drop five of the world’s best climbers is based on a desire to keep from marring a carefully crafted image. “Ultimately, this decision came down to a sense of responsibility to our own story, what we endorse and the activities that we encourage.” Keeping an average product competitive in the marketplace requires an above average image.

It sounds like Clif Bar is saying that it made the decision because it did not want to encourage dangerous behavior that might lead to the death of an athlete or provide sponsorship of someone who would ‘model’ the wrong behavior to children. It is claiming to draw a line in the sand and hold the moral high ground. “We have and always will support athletes in many adventure-based sports, including climbing.  And inherent in the idea of adventure is risk.  We appreciate that assessing risk is a very personal decision.  This isn't about drawing a line for the sport or limiting athletes from pursuing their passions. We're drawing a line for ourselves.”

In fact, it really is about a corporate decision that limits the risk for the company name and less a concern for the sponsored individual. I believe these individuals would push the limits whether they had sponsorship or not because it is that very quality that makes them the best at what they do. Lynn Hill used to eat out of the Curry Village dumpsters.

Finally, this is not a case of capitalism exercising moral limit setting as much as it is a corporation making a decision about a potential threat to the bottom line. To those athletes who were dropped, I say you were fired for doing what you were sponsored to do. It is you folks who hold the moral high ground.


1 comment:

  1. Dean Potter died in Yosemite on the 16 of May 2015. I am sad about this but above all, he was a participant in life not a spectator. RIP Dean.