- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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For years, Andy Krafsur has been going against the establishment, pushing his Spira running shoes in nontraditional ways.
In 2005, he boldly proclaimed that using his company's shoes in a sanctioned race would be cheating. Technically he was right. Spira shoes have springs in them, which governing bodies had determined gave an unfair advantage to competitors.
In 2007, he outfitted top runners without shoe deals for the Boston Marathon. His runners didn't win the elite race, but they appeared in enough of the television broadcast, in bright yellow shoes, to intrigue other runners.
As the running-shoe business has grown, Krafsur has been challenged to grow his business against the big money of Nike and the smaller running shoe brands such as New Balance, Brooks and Saucony that have a strong presence among the running community.
But a great marketer never gives up. Wednesday, Spira launched a contest that will bet on you if you buy the company’s shoes. After buying the shoes, consumers can go to SpiraChallenge.com, select a sanctioned chip-timed race in May, and if they don't beat their personal record, Spira will pay them back for the price of their shoes.
"This really changes the participatory nature of sports," Krafsur said. "We are guaranteeing that you will beat your personal record."
The Spira Challenge is a partnership with a recent start-up called HealthWagers. The platform allows a runner to pick a race and place a bet that he will beat his predicted finish time, which is determined by HealthWagers through a database of each runner's past results. Not only can beating a personal record now be gratifying, it could also be lucrative. Betting losers pay betting winners, and HealthWagers takes a cut.
Krafsur says that in addition to being chip timed, those who want to participate in the Spira Challenge have to run a race of 10K or longer.