Lewis Kent may never become a professional runner, but the 22-year-old student at the University of Western Ontario -- and "beer mile" record holder -- has signed a shoe and apparel deal with Brooks.
It is believed to be the first mainstream sponsorship for the sport, in which participants must drink four beers over the course of a 1-mile run. After Kent broke his own record for the beer mile (4 minutes, 51 seconds) on Tuesday night, he announced that he had signed with Brooks.
"It's pretty surreal," Kent said Wednesday. "I've always liked to run and drink beer, but I never thought I would be considered world class for doing both."
"It's pretty surreal. I've always liked to run and drink beer, but I never thought I would be considered world class for doing both." Lewis Kent
Jenine Lafayette, marketing manager for Brooks Canada, would not disclose the terms of the two-year deal with Kent, other than to say the deal will pay him "more than we would pay an amateur athlete and less than we would pay an Olympian." The deal does include bonuses should he win some of the big events on the beer mile calendar, she said.
Kent, who is on the Western Ontario track team, has a personal mile record (without beer) of 4:15. The fact that it takes him only an additional 36 seconds to tackle the beer mile makes him world class. Olympian Nick Symmonds, for example, has a personal beer mile record of 5:19.
After setting a then-record beer mile of 4:55 at the Beer Mile World Classic in San Francisco in August, Kent contacted Montreal-based sports marketing agent Kris Mychasiw, who set up a meeting with Brooks. Kent bested that record on Tuesday, running by himself on a high school track in London, Ontario.
"I think, over the past couple of years, the beer mile has gone from something collegiate runners did to something more serious," Mychasiw said. "And there's a lot [of] appeal to the guys who can who can do this."
Lafayette said that Brooks had been watching the beer mile revolution for a couple of years and was looking for a way to dip its toe in the event.
"We heard about Lewis and how he wanted to use the beer mile to put Canada on the map," Lafayette said. "We feel like our brand zigs when others zag and while our competitors might be all about the sweat and tears of the run, we're about the pursuit of happiness along the way."
Although Kent received no prize money for winning the Beer Mile World Classic, that could change in the future, given the attention the beer mile has received.
Last year, online streaming company FloTrack provided nearly $250,000 in funds and resources to host the Beer Mile World Championships, which will take place again in Austin, Texas, on Dec. 1. The winners take home $2,500, and $5,000 for a world record.
Mark Floreani, chief operating officer of FloSports, which owns FloTrack, said the company invested in the beer mile because of the traction that it got from people outside the running community.
"There's a lot of interest in the beer mile," said Floreani.
FloTrack has also helped in establishing the official rules for the beer mile. Runners drink a 12-ounce beer (which cannot be light and must be a minimum 5 percent alcohol) every quarter of a mile. The beer must be consumed within a 10-meter zone before the start of each lap. Penalty laps are added on for runners who throw up.
When Kent graduates this year, he plans to attend postgraduate school to pursue a career in physical therapy, but if the interest in the beer mile continues to gain steam, there's a shot he could make a career out of it, similar to the opportunities for top competitive eaters.
On Tuesday night, hours after Kent set the record, Amsterdam Beer, the Toronto-based brew that is Kent's beer of choice, retweeted the YouTube clip of Kent's run. Mychasiw said that could be another potential sponsorship.