February 24th, 2012
Ten years ago, if Sarah Reinertsen, a record-breaking athlete in numerous disciplines, wanted to run, she needed to buy a pair of athletic shoes, rip out the sole and attach it to the bottom of the prosthesis on her left leg. Reinertsen was born with a rare bone-growth disorder and had to have her leg amputated when she was a child. Today, she competes in the Paralympics. So does Nike, which has developed a lightweight sole, complete with swoosh logo, to attach to prostheses.
While Paralympians generally have struggled to gain corporate sponsorship in the past, the tide may be turning. According to BBC reporter Stewart Hughes, the Paralympics is a “‘challenger brand’ – a smaller but potentially more nimble player in the marketplace.” While sponsoring Paralympic athletes may give firms like Nike a good reputation for supporting the disabled community, Kimberley Barreda, a double-amputee and adventure sports enthusiast, pulls no punches: “I wish companies would turn down the glow of the self-manufactured halo and just admit they have discovered a ridiculously huge untapped market, and they would love a piece of it.” As war wounds more soldiers around the world, and as diabetes increases, the number of amputees in the market will continue to grow.
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