On a frigid February morning in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., Emma Bates, the 26-year-old fresh face of American distance running, has already logged 12 miles. A new round of snow blanketing the area and a 7,900-foot elevation could potentially intimidate even the most adventurous outdoor athletes. Not Bates.
The Asics ambassador, who inked a multiyear sponsorship deal with the brand in January, rarely backs down from a challenge. In fact, she welcomes it.
This year, she posted a photo on Instagram in which, as an eighth grade student, she is racing against a field of much older boys. Though she didn’t win, it was a pivotal moment (she ran her fastest time) that defined her competitive spirit.
“In my post, I wanted to let girls know that, yeah, we shouldn’t strive to be the best female athlete; we should strive to be the best person and athlete that we can be,” Bates told FN. “Don’t let that hold you back — just because you’re female or born a certain way. Keep pursuing your goals. There is something to be said about female empowerment and women going out there and doing their best.”
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Asics is giving her a platform to deliver that message to more women as running’s rising star — she won the 2018 USA Marathon Championships and hopes to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Bates will be prominently featured in the brand’s female-targeted ad campaign for its New Strong apparel collection. Other stars include track and field competitor Queen Harrison and Lane Carico, a pro beach volleyball player. The collection, which launched March 8 on International Women’s Day, was developed for females by the women of Asics. The company said the apparel is aimed at “the modern woman, however and whenever she moves, from the gym to the street to traveling the world.”
But Bates knows it’s not easy to reach a new audience.
“It is incredibly challenging to keep the attention of millennials and to know exactly what they are after,” said the Idaho native, who trains and races in Asics’ Gel-Nimbus 21. “The biggest thing for me is to be myself and to be authentic. Otherwise, millennials can see right through that.”
Bates, a 12-time All-American, is bent on continuing to use her social platforms for the greater good.
At the 2018 California International Marathon, she helped to raise awareness — and a considerable amount of money — for people impacted by the wildfires in the northern part of the state. Bates partnered with the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. to launch an IPA beer, with all proceeds going to relief efforts, and wore a jersey with the phrase “Run for Camp Fire Relief.” As the leader of the pack and the race’s eventual winner, she immediately drew attention to the cause.
After that event, Bates asked brewers in the Boise area to produce the same beer, and she supported more fundraising efforts.
“I have always wanted to get better at running so that I could have a voice for others,” said Bates. “I wanted to pursue something that I would have a platform to base everything off of. I’ve always had a strong goal to help others.”
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