Over these past few months, I’ve had a chance to virtually meet some amazing plus size athletes. Whether I found them on my own, or they reached out to me to let me know who they are and what they do, it’s exciting to meet other plus size women embracing an activity or sport and leading a healthy life.
So this week, I’m kicking off a new monthly segment on the website, where I profile a plus size athlete or as I like to think a “Born to Reign Athlete”, as they embody the passion, strength and attitude in reigning over their body, life & spirit in a healthy way.
To launch this new feature, I’d like to introduce you to 2 women, Peggy & Leah. In addition to being immersed in their respective sports of cycling & triathlon, they are also SPONSORED athletes.
Athletic sponsorship is not a new concept for professionals, Olympians or even local, elite athletes. But in my experience, I rarely saw it for local amateur, middle-back of the pack athletes with plus size body shapes. Well not anymore. Brands are starting to realize the importance of recognizing and respecting athletes of all body shapes, sizes and athletic abilities.
So this feature comes with a twist as you’ll learn about Peggy & Leah, and how they got sponsored, what it means to them and their thoughts on this emerging trend.
Peggy is a 55 year old cyclist, originally from New England who now resides in Phoenix, Arizona. Peggy has been cycling for over 6 years, 6 days a week and shoots for 16-48 km a day (depends on which one of her 5 bikes, she is riding.)
You are a sponsored amateur athlete (cyclist) with Liv, a division of Giant Bikes that is committed to the female cyclist. How did you get involved with them?
It started about 4 years ago when I was hooked up with my first Giant Bicycle at a local bike shop, I was crazy about cycling and wanted to try out racing. The local Account Rep for Giant Bicycles, at that time, (Cindy Lacotta, who is awesome by the way) had a team doing the local MBAA series and she accepted me as a team member, the rest is history. She saw my passion for cycling, how I loved to get others involved in cycling and used it to her advantage and mine!
How long have you been sponsored by them?
Officially it has been an entire year, with expectations of being sponsored again in 2015.
What are the terms of the sponsorship?
For the entire year, I get free gear, the coolest of coolest bikes to ride, swag to give away and the thrill of representing one of the best bicycle makers out there who stands behind their product and supports women in cycling. In return, I get to talk about how much I love their bikes, do work shops on cycling and lead local group rides.
How have you benefited from the sponsorship?
I have met some of the coolest people and made so many new friends! My name is known in the community for being instrumental in getting more women on bicycles and probably the greatest joy is that I get to represent a company who stands behind me and supports me for who I am, not what size I am.
What advice would you give to other plus size athletes, seeking sponsorship?
DO IT!! Don’t let anyone hold you back, don’t be intimidated by the smaller athletes, you are beautiful and you are the perfect representation of any company. Why? Because you ARE doing it! Apply for those sponsorships, tell them about your passion and show them how passionate you are with regard to whatever sport you are in.
Leah is a 35 year old mom and body positive, plus size triathlete. She’s from Redhead New South Wales, Australia and has been competing in triathlon for over a year. But her athletic career didn’t begin there, as she is also a fitness instructor with a speciality in boxing, endurance training and helping people conquer the mental aspects of training.
Pre-pregnancy, Leah’s training routine included 2 workouts a day, 5-6 days a week. With another little one on the way, her regime has changed to 3-4 days a week, but she still trains with her squad and coach Rod Cook, from TriNova.
I learned of your 2XU sponsorship by following you on Instagram. Who are they?
They are specialist performance clothing range that started from very humble beginnings in Melbourne, Australia. They are now one of the leading sports performance brands in the country and have a strong international following. They are best known for their triathlon-specific gear and their compression clothing. 2XU means ‘Human Performance, Multiplied.
How did you get sponsored by 2Xu?
Earlier this year I tagged 2XU Australia in a picture on my Instagram account that featured my most treasured tri suit. The picture was a professional one taken in a shoot that for me, celebrated amongst other things, my weight loss of 50kg.
What you would appreciate, being a triathlete yourself, is that an item like your favoured triathlon suit becomes an extension of you. It’s the only thing besides one’s ‘self’ that bears witness to the struggles, the tears, the fears, and the triumphs that you experience both in training and racing.
A week later 2XU Australia reposted my image as their ‘Monday fitspiration’, and it had a massive response both for me and the brand. Within hours of them posting the image there were people heading to the nearest outlet looking for the gear they had always wanted but feared it did not fit them - the image of me in their gear had created a ‘buyer confidence’ in the size 16-18 customer base.
I was not only humbled by 2XU using my image but I was impressed by the bravery they showed by promoting a plus size athlete in their clothing. We all know that sports brands promote their products in an aspirational manner. Most of them do it using unrealistic body shapes that the average person cannot relate to. Even if they do have a plus range, they usually use a very neat & pretty model that even to the plus size customer is still not relatable. One of the key aims of my personal body positive project is to encourage sporting brands who do accommodate plus sizes to actually use images of plus size athletes in their gear. I contacted 2XU, shared some more information about my story and by the end of that day I was offered a role in their Elite Sponsorship Program.
Because 2XU stands for ‘Human Performance, Multiplied’, they want their products to help you be the best version of yourself, not the person you are in comparison to anyone else, so they seek out brand representatives with the power to inspire others, not make them feel inferior. I really love that about this brand.
How has being sponsored by 2XU, helped you in your sport?
Let’s face it, triathlon can be a very costly sport, so any assistance is welcome! The thing that I am most grateful for however it the message that their support conveys to the wider community. Here is a sporting brand that is willing to recognize and support a plus-size athlete, thereby dispelling the myth that in order to be classed an ‘athlete’ you must look a certain way. I think the true weight of their support is the fact that people such as yourself recognize the significance of it and I hope it paves the way for other brands to step up and feature average sized athletes in their gear.
To keep up with Leah’s triathlon ventures, follow her on Instagram “leebee2321″
In addition, to 2XU and Liv Cycling - Giant Bikes, here are 5 additional companies that sponsor plus size athletes (I’ve either known someone, read about it on someone’s blog or it’s posted on the brand’s website). Each of their programs vary, so be sure to read the details and apply by their deadline dates.
1. Ascenta - ambassadorship include product and discounts to share with others
2. Enell - while they are not taking any more applications for now, expect that it will open up again in 2015.
3. Katie K Active Wear - email them for details
4. Running Free - currently accepting applications until November 30, 2014 for 2015
5. Taffy Active Wear - ambassadorship includes a complimentary outfit
Another approach is to target your favourite brands that you regularly shop from to support your plus size athletic lifestyle. Here’s a link for 10 creative ways to recognize sponsors, as the partnership needs to be a win-win for everyone.
I’d like to thank Leah and Peggy for allowing us into their lives, sharing their stores, experiences and advice. I hope you’ve been inspired.
If you would like to be profiled as next month’s featured plus size athlete, please email me through the site, “hello at borntoreignathletics dot com” or on Facebook.
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