Some readers may have heard I got selected as a Brand Ambassador for Ultra Expeditions. In short, Brand Ambassadors are required to run six races in 2020 while wearing Ultra Expeditions gear. In exchange, you "get to" be a representative of their brand.
From the get-go, I was disappointed at the program's poor management. Here's a list of grievances:
- Brand Ambassadors represent the brand for a calendar year, beginning on January 1. You don't find out you're an ambassador until December 23, giving you nine days of notice, which is essentially no time to train.
- Brand Ambassadors don't get their running shirts for at least a month and a half into the year.
- Brand Ambassadors are expected to pay for the six races they're required to run, three of which are Ultra Expeditions races
- Brand Ambassadors are expected to pay for the Ultra Expeditions shirts they're required to wear.
- The official shirts are black and only come in short-sleeve and long-sleeve. Ultra Expeditions exclusively operates in Texas, where most distance runners wear sleeveless shirts 80-90% of the year. Ultra Expeditions requires its representatives to run races in 90+ degree weather while wearing a shirt most marathoners wouldn't choose when it's 40 degrees cooler.
- When you email Ultra Expeditions with a question, they'll only respond about half the time.
- Last, but not least, Ultra Expeditions abuses the ever-loving crap out of the mailing list. Probably 3-4 emails/week, most of them simply another ad for a race, complete with spammy emojis in the subject line.
Brand ambassadors get literally nothing in return for their work, aside from a vague promise of “A chance for additional and unique opportunities within Ultra Expeditions”. All of the "benefits" are something that costs money. Ultra Expeditions makes its Brand Ambassadors pay for the privilege of doing advertising for them.
The straw that broke the camel's back was finding out the shirts don't come in a sleeveless option. It's enough to make you think no one who works at Ultra Expeditions is a runner themselves.
I don't want to represent a company that's poorly managed, doesn't appear to know much about the sport, and misspells the word "ULTRA" (as "ULTA") in a header on their website. However, if they were looking for a new executive director, I could do a better job and make sure things are done correctly. And hopefully, they’d pay me, instead of the other way around.
I decided to sleep on it before officially resigning from the position, because as an endurance athlete, I don’t like quitting. And I posted a few concerns online, asking friends what they would do in a similar situation. I wanted to see if any others' perspectives would help.
Ultra Expeditions noticed my posts and got upset at me "stooping to this level" instead of trying to have a conversation with them directly (this happened after they'd ignored a few emails, of course). As a result, they kicked me out of the Brand Ambassador program, dropped me from their upcoming race, and refunded the registration fee.
In reality, they were doing me a favor. Ultra Expeditions's Brand Ambassador program is comparable to an MLM scheme, only without the 1% chance of success.
Considering I was likely to win their upcoming race, you have to wonder how much that factored in. It would sting to see someone call you out on your bullshit, then be forced to hand them a trophy.
It's a shame, because Ultra Expeditions is one of the only companies that organizes a trail racing series in Texas, and they also organize the only 100-miler in Texas that takes place during the spring, which gives me the majority of a school year to properly train. I would've liked to run their races, but if this level of mismanagement is any indication, maybe they're best avoided.
Should I start a running company? I have more sense than all of Ultra Expeditions's employees combined, and I wouldn't need to hire someone to build the website.