Originally Posted by Whiteroom
Sure, they could refuse to resign them, and in the next minute, every other manufacturer would come knocking. There is a very limited talent pool of WC skiers. They have the power. Can a brand 'demand' full integration? Sure, but the athlete will have every other manufacturer as a fall back, strong arming just won't work. The carrot works, the stick doesn't.
Think of it this way, if the Green Bay Packers took on Geico as a sponsor, do you suppose telling Aaron Rodgers that his contract will be void if he doesn't stop doing State Farm commercials would work?
I don't believe the balance of power is quite that one-sided in favor of the athletes. The athletes are, as you've indicated, free to "draw a line," but then so are the companies. What's been running around in the back of my mind is the situation in 2010 when Carlo Janka, who was fully sponsored by Atomic, decided he didn't like the new Atomic binding. He repeatedly asked Atomic for permission to either continue using the old binding or to substitute a competitor's product. Atomic refused, and he subsequently switched to Rossignol (not sure when he switched, though). [See http://skiracing.com/stories/hirscher-runs-marker-plate-and-binding-in-soelden/] I didn't mention this earlier, since it represents a somewhat different situation --- he was already under contract with Atomic for the binding, so switching mid-season is newsworthy and creates a particular embarrassment. But in any case this is consistent both with what you've said (athletes have options, and if one company doesn't make them happy they can switch to another), and with what I've suggested (some brands may accept athletes jumping ship in order to have integration, and in such cases it's only for the rare athlete, like a Hirscher, that they'll make an exception).
Some data would help here -- for instance, does Atomic have any non-integrated athletes at the WC level? [I did a random check and couldn't find any.] If not, is this because Atomic, as a matter of policy, doesn't allow this?
Edited by chemist - 1/10/15 at 5:18pm