Vibram Teams Up With New England Race Event

Vibram, the Italian rubber sole shoe company, said last week that it inked a multiyear partnership with New England Race Events to sponsor the Midstate Massive Ultra Trail.

For the next three years, Vibram will be the main sponsor for New England’s point-to-point ultra marathon. The marathon has three distances: 30 miles, 50 miles and 100 miles — the trail weaves throughout Massachusetts and crosses over the New Hampshire and Rhode Island borders. This year, the race will be held on Oct. 7 and 8.

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Vibram also convened industry members and consumers earlier this week to glean insights into sustainability from leading experts in a panel discussion titled, “Designing for a Sustainable Future.” The event was held at the Vibram Connection Lab in Boston.

Regarding the Midstate Massive Ultra Trail partnership, Rich Mazzola, founder and president of New England Race Events, said, “We couldn’t be more excited to have Vibram join our journey in establishing one of the finest ultra-marathon experiences in the northeast. Their breadth of involvement will enhance not only our event, but the awareness and advocacy for the Midstate Trail and all that support it.”

Per the sponsorship agreement, Vibram is providing many support options to race participants, like coaching and training tips by a Team Vibram elite athlete for the 30-, 50- and 100-mile race, and one-on-one coaching for one athlete. Furthermore, 25 participants will be awarded a free trail shoe re-sole with Vibram’s leading technology and a pair of Vibram FiveFingers or Furoshiki shoes. One free re-sole will be given to the top men’s and women’s athletes for each event every year.

The Vibram team will be on the ground throughout the race to help with aid stations, volunteer drivers, recon events and trail clean-ups.

“After a successful partnership in 2022, we wanted to continue Vibram’s support of the New England Race Events due to our shared values, passion for the ultra-trail running community and this being a race that’s held in our home state of Massachusetts,” said Fabrizio Gamberini, global chief brand officer and president of Vibram. “We are excited to see our partnership grow over the next few years.”

Regarding the sustainability panel, industry experts discussed waste reduction and shared insights into regenerative agriculture, carbon impact, product durability, production processes and materials, and full circularity. The session featured Marco Guazzoni, sustainability director at Vibram; Katy O’Brien, senior manager of sustainable innovation at New Balance; Pete Lankford, founder of Lankford Design, and Zach Angelini, cofounder and impact lead at The Consultory.

Session attendees included industry stakeholders and consumers. Tyler Allan, marketing manager at Vibram, served as moderator of the discussion as panel members shared their industry experiences, learnings, best practices and ideas for how the industry can make even more strides in its sustainability practices.

Waste production merged as a key point. “Our impact is entirely around the energy we use and the materials we use. If we’re wasting a huge portion of those materials we’re using, that’s our first line of defense in getting after doing better,” O’Brien noted. “At New Balance, we’ve been really fixated on how we reduce the amount of waste that we create, and a big part of that is in part production — the fewer parts you have, the less waste you’re going to have. We also do a lot in identifying new technologies such as digital manufacturing technologies as they don’t create as much waste.”

Considerations at the beginning of the product development process can also make a difference. When asked about his experience, Angelini said, “Decisions at the very beginning of design can really make end-of-life waste a possibility or not. Footwear is made up of hybrid materials that are all glued together, so there’s no easy way to recycle that efficiently, but there were some interesting things that Timberland was doing in design and around circularity to actually build using mono materials that are attached together in a way that can be easily disassembled at the end of life so those materials can go into their respective recycling streams.”

Angelini also noted that collaboration is essential, noting that “if multiple brands come together, they can educate consumers on how they can bring those products back for recycling.” Vibram’s Guazzoni said, as a component producer, “Pre-consumer waste is a major part of what we are taking care of and designating the waste in a positive way in terms of reusing and recycling it. The concept of eco-design is the key for the future, and if companies work together, we can make new models for the future — we have to rethink what has been done from the economic standpoint to the extent of sustainability.”

From left: Tyler Allan of Vibram, Pete Lankford of Lankford Design, Katy O’Brien of New Balance, Zach Angelini of The Consultory and Marco Guazzoni of Vibram. (Image courtesy of Vibram.)
From left: Tyler Allan of Vibram, Pete Lankford of Lankford Design, Katy O’Brien of New Balance, Zach Angelini of The Consultory and Marco Guazzoni of Vibram. (Image courtesy of Vibram.)

Lankford agreed with the other panelists and added that one issue facing the industry is a lack of visibility on product creation teams. This can have a lasting, negative impact. “Part of the solution is organizational; how do you expose the right people at decision-making points to go beyond and make it a highly disciplined process?” Lankford said.

As a component brand that works with more than 1,000 brands globally, Vibram said it is in “a unique position to bring various companies together for meaningful discussions and leading the way in the industry. The Vibram Sneaker Forum events are hosted regularly in the Boston Connection Lab with topics ranging from [chief executive officer] insights to an inside look into the past, present and future of the sneaker world.”

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