Oiselle.

All the Nick Symmonds talk and Oiselle’s vocal stance and internet solidarity has got me thinking about how they treated me last year.

Two summer ago I became a Member of their Volee team. (The team anyone can join basically) They had a big application process and I thought it sounded like a fun opportunity so I applied.

Here’s the deal- you’re on the team. What does that mean? When I joined, your benefits for being on the team were receiving 30% off orders and free shipping. Which was pretty huge because their shipping was like $8! I don’t know if it still is, but WUT. At that time on top of your discount and free shipping, they also sent a pair of shorts, jersey, t-shirt and a cotton zip jacket and then another tank the following season.

In return you are their marketing bitch. They ask you not to post photos of yourself in apparel that is not their own and ask that you push their brand. That’s really organic right? I mean this is a genius marketing move on their part, but it’s played. And it’a about time we moved on from it.

I don’t even know what it means to be on the team now. From the recent article I read, you have to pay $100 to get a discount (I don’t even think it’s 30% or is there even a discount anymore? I can’t keep up) and for that you get a free jersey that you are supposed to wear at races and a spike bag. And I get it- beyond the discounts, you get the “team” side of things- supporting and encouraging your teammates on-line and meeting up at races. The camaraderie of being on a team is what many people are looking for.  And that is absolutely a wonderful thing if you are getting that from them. I love to see that happen.

But this is when Oiselle rubbed me the wrong way:

Last year I had the incredible opportunity to be on the cover of Women’s Running Magazine. It was a great platform to share my story and I was honored to be a part of it.

Over 2,000 people applied for the contest, sponsored by Saucony, where you explained a moment in your life where you “found your strong”. I talked about the when I found out I had the BRCA 2 gene mutation and how training for my first half Ironman helped me through making some tough decisions and beating fear. Women’s Running and Saucony narrowed it down to 9 finalists. Once you were a finalist, the person with the most votes won the contest.

At the time, I had been drinking the Oiselle koolaide. Although it was fading.  I was quickly realizing I didn’t love how the brand went about a lot of things- you know like when they altered the image of the U.S. women’s 4 X 1500 meter team, replacing the nike logo with logos of the athletes sponsors… WITHOUT consent of the athletes. I’m not here to make an argument about the whole Nike, USATF thing, but what they did was not ok and the original response from Oiselle that I saw wasn’t an apology but more so a bitchy “look at this shitty letter we were sent when we did something we weren’t supposed to do”. I did just go to this post from a link on the runners world article and Sally did apologize. Not sure when that happened, but good for her. What they did was wrong (publicity stunt or not, I don’t know) and when grown ups (or children for that matter) do something wrong, they should just man up, apologize and move on.

So back to me and my contest, because I’m like really self absorbed like the rest of you all- I was of course reaching out to everyone in my network to get votes, because that’s how you win. Naturally I reached out to Oiselle because I was on the team and that was a huge network. They were really weird about pushing to recruit people to vote for me, but more so concerned with if I’d be able to wear Oiselle on the magazine cover. UM, the contest was sponsored by Saucony- of course I wouldn’t be wearing Oiselle. After all if I was an actual sponsored Oiselle athlete, I wouldn’t be applying for a contest like this. My hope though that with the “sisterhood” that they are, they’d get behind me and support what I was doing.

THEN, when I did win- after the photo shoot, the team manager emailed me this:

“Lindsey, Did you have to wear Saucony for the cover photo? In hindsight – we probably won’t want Oiselle Volee athletes to enter contest like these if they require you to wear another competitor brand. It does in fact go against what we ask of our members the rest of the year – promoting other apparel brands by posting on social media. Next time I will make sure to ask the questions with future team members.I hope that they let you wear Oiselle. I saw some pretty cute photos of you on Twitter before the photo shoot. Hope it was fun. You definitely deserved the win.”

My response was this:

Hi,

Yes, the contest was sponsored by Saucony so I was wearing Saucony in the photo shoot.

I love Oiselle, love being on the team and promoting the brand but this was a once in a life time opportunity that I couldn’t pass up- and I don’t think many people would. I will be on the cover of a national magazine – which provides an amazing platform for me not only tell my story but will also drive people to my blog and coaching. This is ultimately a very good thing for Oiselle, considering that I promote all the time. I have lead several of my clients and running friends to the product. While I was in San Diego- I made sure to wear Oiselle while getting ready for the shoot as I knew that would go up on social media, as well as wear it on all of my runs and put pictures up when I was out there.

As I’m sure you know, Kara Goucher will follow my cover of Women’s Running- I’m September and she is October- so there will be plenty of Oiselle love all over her shoot and article since she is a sponsored Oiselle athlete.

I’m sorry if this went against Oiselle ambassador rules, and it’s certainly not something I take lightly but I simply could not pass up the opportunity.

Thanks,

Lindsey

SO, they didn’t want me to pursue this and in the future won’t let athletes on their “team” (Team meaning ambassadors who aren’t sponsored who are actually now paying to be on the “team”) pursue opportunities like this if they can’t wear Oiselle. This is complete BS. Obviously I’m not an elite runner looking for a sponsorship- I had joined their “team” because I thought I liked what they were doing and I truly do like their apparel. But this was my final straw with them. A couple of weeks later I let them know I was done and that was that.

In general I am turned off by any business who is constantly bashing others in their line of work. It is distasteful and not attractive. I have worked with people like this and it makes me cringe. Of course you want to be on top and you want to push YOUR agenda and brand, but if I see that you are straight up hateful to others it makes me think I wouldn’t like you as a person, wouldn’t want to spend time with you and certainly wouldn’t want to support your business. Seems like if you spent all the energy hating on things other people are doing, on perfecting your own model, you’d be happier and ultimately more successful. And people like me would like you more.

If someone were to ask me about other running coaches, I certainly wouldn’t talk badly about another coach- because that’s immature and after all, I am a grown ass woman.

All that being said- I still love my Mac Roga’s and wear them every time they are clean. I just can’t figure out why the person the shorts are named after felt the need to block both myself and my husband on twitter. Something tells me it has to do with Glenn speaking his mind when all this went down.

Haters gonna hate.

Comments

  1. I’m so glad you wrote this and that I read it. I’ve had some very bad feelings toward Oiselle since being ASKED to join Volee last May. The final straw was receiving the email saying we had one more year as non-paying Volee members and then, next year, our “membership” would cost $100 for less perks then we are currently receiving. To say I was floored, is a massive understatement. I feel like the team I joined has morphed into something that is a marketing machine living only to feed the Oiselle beast. I actually breathed a sigh of relief to read this post, knowing I’m not the only one.
    Congratulations on the cover! That is a truly amazing accomplishment.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Thanks Allie! I agree it has turned into a marketing machine that is not authentic and quite frankly, I’m over it! Hope your training is going great- thanks for reading!

  2. I STILL can’t believe they didn’t want you to enter the contest just because you couldn’t wear Oiselle. So obnoxious! Maybe your post will make them think a little harder about how they work with influencers, who they should be treating way better.

    1. Meg Gayman

      Ericka, remember when I told you about my bad blood with Oiselle? and what they did to me with inviting me to the 2012 T&F trials and then uninviting me, at my expense because I went to a Nike sponsored Title IX event and tweeted about it? The email from the manager to Lindsey (from Kristen, I assume) is near identical to what I had received and that was BEFORE they had the rules about “team” members not wearing other brands. Then you see their team favorites pimping out other brands and NOT getting their wrists slapped. I think someone at GOMI stated it best when they labeled Oiselle’s motives as “predatory feminism”.

      Lindsey, you are amazing, and Oiselle doesn’t deserve you, I do wish there was a running brand that actually stood for all women and had the team atmosphere that Oiselle tricked me into believing they had.

    2. Lindsey Hein

      Meg- I think I read your comment on Rose Runner blog and that is honestly what got me fired up to share my feelings about them. I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I read that. WOW. Kudos to you for also standing up to them. Thanks for reading!!

      1. Meg Gayman

        I was nervous to post there, but I really have nothing to lose as I don’t blog about fitness anymore. I’m impressed and happy to see you share your story. I feel like Oiselle pulls the wool over so many women’s eyes, I believe in authenticity and it burns me so hard to see such hypocrisy from Oiselle. I’m happy you won the cover and didn’t back down.

    3. Lindsey Hein

      Ericka- ugh seriously. They are ridiculous. And annoying for that matter.

  3. Jana

    I am very sorry that your experience was diminished because of the pre and post dialogue with Oiselle. The very special thing about running is the inclusiveness…this is anything but. I found you because of the Oiselle brand and for that I’m enormously thankful. I’m also very thankful that I have made so many wonderful connections with other “local” runners and national runners with Oiselle. The community has been quite inspiring.

    As women we have a tough road- being a wife, partner, employer, employee, mom, friend etc is hard- a real struggle. To a see a company put out a brand that supports all of these functions is inspiring…until it’s not. The reality companies are driven by money- Oiselle is no different and no better than the others in this regard. The best people and companies are those that give real service to their message- you can’t have your PR saying one thing and your people acting contrary. It’s disingenuous.

    I love running. The people, the community, the clothes, the shoes, the races…it’s all great. I wish that was the focus, but this is business.

    I support you Lindsey Hein.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Jana- thank you so much. You know I love you. I know that what YOU and many others are getting from Oiselle is an awesome team experience and I also know that that is a big part of what the team is about to them- although I so question some motives. Like you said- this is a business though- I just wish they weren’t into bashing other business while trying to push their own. (this is related to many other comments I’ve seen made, not related to my personal experience with them). I’m so glad we found each other through the network and am happy to see it’s been a positive experience for you of course! Thank you for your insightful comment!! 🙂

  4. Sarah

    Wonderful and refreshing post. Thank you. I too was once a member and then saw the light. My local group of “team” runners is very much a clique. I stopped being a part of cliques in high school and it is certainly not something I want to promote to my daughter as being “okay”. I would go to local events and feel like the outcast as they all had inside jokes and stories of adventures together or at the exclusive bird camps. Oh, the bird camps. For a company that shouts sisterhood they sure do not make those camps very inclusive. In fact they are downright exclusive. If you can afford the steep cost you get some fancy trinkets and the chance to talk to pros. Well, I for one can not afford the flight + camp combo which would be in the high $1000’s once all added up. I would rather use that money to go on family excursions where I get a chance to hang out with those I love. I am afraid bird camp may turn into a bigger version of my local team events and I have no urge to feel more like an outcast. If it was true sisterhood they would have small, affordable camps in different areas of the country to allow all “birds” to attend and it would not cost over $500 to attend a camp. I say a simple camp where you actually camp out and get up each morning and go for some runs, do some yoga, or kayaking on a lake together. A true bonding experience where all feel welcome. No need for elite talks most “birds” are not elite birds. I myself just like to run and will never be elite, so I would love a simple camp where everyone chats and gets to know each other. I do not need any fancy talks that add to the cost. I have no idea how some of the birds afford the camps.

    As for the gear. Yeah, what they did to you is not appropriate and they should apologize. You were discussing an important topic that has to do with women’s health. Based on that alone and Oiselle’s all women power chatter they should have been proud and praised you, no matter what gear you were in. I for one praise you. Thank you for talking. This just makes it sound like their image is just that…..an image. There is no truth behind it. It is an image to make women flock to them and sing their praise. I would be more impressed if they stood by their image. I know of another runner that was featured in a magazine and she wore Oiselle. I do not know her personally, but know that she was hurt when Oiselle did not share her piece because she too was talking about an important topic. Plus she did wear Oiselle. I have written to her privately about this and she too struggles with feeling excluded from her local group. So where is the sisterhood in that?

    Now hundreds more have flocked to Oiselle and paid hundreds to be a part of a team that is not truly a team. It is a money game to afford all the big elites they have hired. Sorry I for one left the crew and refused to pay come 2016. I would rather give my hundreds to a local charity. One that will utilize my money to help people who truly need help. Oiselle has a team because they can not afford their big athletes on their own and they like the image those athletes bring. So the Volee team become the saps who pay for them and truly get no big praise or reward. No other company does that because they can afford their athletes. Oiselle took in too much at once and now have a marketing scheme in place to pay for it. Wise plan, but feel sorry for those who pay.

    Anyways, thank you for this piece and bringing up an important topic that needs to be discussed. I for one support you.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Sarah- thank you for reading and I appreciate hearing your insight. Yes- one of the things that rubbed me wrong the most about my experience with the cover and what not was that the story that was told didn’t even matter to them- what matter was that they didn’t get to push their brand. Had they seen the bigger picture, they would have known that more exposure to me would have lead to more exposure to them in the long run. Too bad now, the exposure they are getting from me is not positive. Thanks for reading and supporting!!

    2. Jana

      I’m jumping back in on this one. I too am not a fan of the negative comments released by Oiselle regarding the sport of running. I am a big believer in kindness and fairness. If Oiselle doesn’t like what they see in the sport the way to address it is through informed conversation, not lashing posts and comments. That’s no way to be taken seriously.

      But I do not believe that enjoying the Oiselle brand of clothing or their Volee team makes 750+ women saps as indicated by the comment above. Many of us simply enjoy running and all that comes with it. It’s been rather inspiring to connect with other runners in the area- I don’t have a local run club or even a running store in my town. I’ve been able to make a lot of fun connections with runners in the Twin Cities and have participated in a lot of runs with them- even a Ragnar. Just yesterday one of the Twin Cities Haute Volee contacted me to see if I wanted to try out some of her running shoes- because she knew I’m looking for a new brand- how nice is that????

      I love Oiselle gear but also love my Brooks, Nike and UA gear too 🙂

      xoxo

  5. wow…I can’t believe that. I have been hearing this sentiment more and more, however, on some message boards and in running circles. I have never shopped on their site, and wanted to like them when Kara Goucher went over there, but I always got a weird vibe from the brand. Good for you for doing the shoot – it truly is a once in a lifetime thing and such an awesome thing to say you were a part of!
    PS – I am currently halfway through marathon training and pulled up your Shamrock Marathon training log the other day for some motivation lol 🙂

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Patty- thank you for reading. I know- I want to love what Kara Goucher is doing, but I was kind of shocked that she took to the “birds” and jumped on their bandwagon. I hope you’re training is going well. That race will always be a game changer for me- helping me realize what my potential in running really is and I hope it’s the same for you!!

  6. This is blowing my mind right now. I feel like I’m reading about a completely different brand than what I’ve seen and heard about. It’s really too bad that these kinds of things happen. Proud of you and happy you wrote this. #TRUTH

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Lindsey- thank you for reading. I know- it’s crazy… and sadly I think they’ve done things of this sort to several people. BUH.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this. Although sponsorships are key for most amateur athletes, I think there should be more transparency about the way sponsors work to shape careers.

  8. Belle

    Well said, Lindsey. Too bad Oiselle didn’t get to know the true spirit of Lindsey Hein because then they’d know that you weighed out the decision to enter the cover contest carefully, and promoted Oiselle with any other opportunity you had because you knew that to be the right thing. Oiselle should work on their policy of loyalty to team members to receive it in return.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Thanks Belle! Ah I love you and your spunk. Right- treat me right and I will treat you right right back! I agreed on the policy. It needs work. Hope you are well- miss our email chats!!

  9. Good for you for posting this. Oiselle is nothing but a smaller version of Nike masquerading as a sisterhood, and the more people speak out about it, the more they are told to “let it go” and “quit stewing”. You have every right to recount your experience, and you did so in a very mature manner, unlike a certain woman whose name begins with an S and ends with an -ally.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Thanks for reading Christina!! I agree and I’m more than over the catty behavior.

  10. Holly

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is really disappointing to hear that they, too, are just a business and not exactly true to the image they project on social media.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Holly – thank you for reading!! Yes- the sisterhood they portray is not so amazing for my experience- although I do know some others who have had that- and I’m happy for them. At some point you have to draw the line on brand loyalty. I refuse to be someone’s marketing bitch just because they give me a small discount.

  11. Sara

    Thank you for sharing your story. Honestly, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who had a less than stellar experience with the “volee”.
    I am a woman who owns my own business and the way that Oiselle presents on social media (and in person, when I had the chance to meet the great and powerful Sally face to face) really rubbed me the wrong way.
    $100 to join this “team”? NOPE. My team is my local running club, and I’m happy to (like you) wear my 30% off Roga’s and peace the hell out.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Thank you Sara! Right- no thanks I don’t need to pay $100 to join your on-line team that I could just meet up with at races without paying the fee. The longer they are out there the more their social media presence has revealed negative tones and I’m over it.

  12. I love their gear. Especially the strappy bra…I have like five of them. They were really great to all the Nuun/Hood to Coast runners when we went out there in 2013. They were up and coming and we met Sally and the tream and everyone seemed really nice. Very organic and genuine…but that seems to have shifted in the past few years. I’m not a flock member and never applied to be, but when they started the program it seemed a little odd to me as I heard various details from Nuun/HTC teammates who did join. Their communication with you regarding the cover shoot seems really unprofessional and kind of pushy. I think sometimes there is a dark side to success and they happen to be exhibiting it here.

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Sarah- I really do like a lot of their gear too. I don’t own one of the strappy bras, but have tried them on at the running store I work for and they are awesome. And love love the mac rogas right now. I did meet Sally and Lauren (although I’m sure they don’t remember) at Boston last year and they both seemed genuine but I’m just not into the flavor and attitude that’s being put out these days. Lot’s of bitchy, catty behavior. Hopefully for future “team” members applying for contests like the one we did- they will get behind them and support them regardless of what they wear for the story. (which will be the brand of whoever sponsors the contest right?!) Anyway- glad we’ve met through the cover experience. 🙂

  13. I see a lot of companies doing poor jobs of navigating the social marketing boom – they are asking too much of their promoters, ambassadors, team members, “hashtag x and we will feature some articles” participants and giving too little in return. Bloggers and consumers are starting to get disenchanted and feel taken advantage of, and I anticipate a shift in how much people trust and want to engage with companies in the near future. Lindsay – I respect the way you shared your experience to give people considering a relationship with oiselle or other companies something to think about. Good for you, and I hope their flock doesn’t get too Alfred Hitchcocky on you for sharing what happened. They’re entitled to make their own decision about how much they’ll benefit from a relationship with oiselle or any other company. Your willingness to love the shorts even as you leave the relationship is authentic and awesome. Good for you and thanks!

    1. Lindsey Hein

      Kelly- Thank you for reading. Yes the social marketing boom has got to change. I think people are over seeing everyone promote and market in a way that is not natural and just to push a brand they simply get a discount on. I haven’t had too much negative talk to me regarding the post yet so that’s good. I think a lot of people who have been on the team in the past have similar feelings that I do. And YES I do still love those shorts & wear them ALL the time. 🙂

      1. Agreed – and as a consumer of social media, I’ve started to trust people less when they review or recommend a lot of products. It’s harder to connect with people online because you’re always waiting for them to try to sell you something.

  14. Pingback: Paying to Run with — and for — Oiselle – Méli Mélo

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