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Run Culture • July 6, 2023

Bandit Running Gives a Voice to Unsponsored Athletes

bandit running unsponsored - feature

What You Need To Know

The Project

Unsponsored Project, debuting at the US Outdoor Track & Field Championships

The Goal

Give unsponsored athletes exposure by providing unbranded Bandit apparel

Celebration of The Unsponsored Athlete

In a sponsored-meet-unsponsored move, Bandit Running is debuting its Unsponsored Project at the US Outdoor National Track and Field Championships this weekend. The goal of the project is to shine a light on what they believe is a broken sponsorship model– there’s not enough money to go around (or brands just don’t want to pay it), so athletes are forced to wear branded gear to races while receiving nothing in return.

At the Outdoor Championships, Bandit is giving unsponsored runners custom, unbranded Bandit singlets, helping them stand out and declare their unsponsored status on race day. The hope is that it will help them stand out among other, sponsored runners, and will attract paid sponsors for themselves going forward.

bandit running - unsponsored project - courtney woods

Courtney Okolo, unsponsored athlete

bandit running - unsponsored project - craig track

Craig Nowak, unsponsored athlete

It also stays true to the spirit of the Bandit name. While they’re not banditing a race, of course, by wearing unbranded Bandit apparel, athletes are creating an inflection point; drawing a line in the sand to show that they won’t give free advertising to the major players in the brand space.

Since Bandit is a small brand and currently not able to provide full-on sponsorship for runners, it’s a great way to have a presence among top athletes. It also garners brand recognition and goodwill among the run community, as they’re effectively lifting up unsponsored runners in the hopes that bigger brands will recognize their value and worth. Basically, it’s a win-win for both unsponsored athletes and Bandit. Athletes get gear and recognition, Bandit gets placement in major events. Everyone comes out on top.  

bandit running - unsponsored project - em sitting

Emma Gee, unsponsored athlete

According to Bandit, these are “short-term athlete partnerships around their highest visibility moments, encouraging athletes to promote their personal brands.” The end goal is to support athletes at a higher level and represent themselves and their communities as they pursue their dreams.

Follow the athletes featured in the campaign:

Photography by Cortney White for Bandit Running

You can learn more about Bandit Running and check out their apparel at

bandit running - unsponsored project - toms eugene craig steps

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. David Miller says:

    I just learned about your brand and love what you are doing. Your Unsponsored Project resonates with me. I’m still proud of being only one of two runners who wore a blank singlet in the 1984 Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials. No organization supported me as I worked towards qualifying for the Trials. I valued myself and my hardwork too much to give my advertising space away cheaply. My blankness stood out and made a statement on that special day. I’m proud that I was different and never regretted my decision.

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Robbe Reddinger
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Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.

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