06/02/2014 3:10PM

California Chrome, sponsored by Skechers


California Chrome will be sponsored by the footwear company Skechers in the Belmont Stakes, according to the company and officials who participated in the deal, with the company’s brand being featured on clothing worn by his owners and stable team.

The deal is “probably the largest ever reached in horse racing,” according to Ben Sturner, the president of the Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm hired by California Chrome’s owners to represent the horse. Sturner would not provide details about the deal but said his agency expects to announce other deals this week.

“It’s not that often you have a Triple Crown contender, and with California Chrome, you have a great chance to be a part of history,” Sturner said.

While sponsorship deals are not unprecedented, horses are rarely targeted by national companies for promotion, owing in large part to horse racing’s limited audience. But with television ratings expected to swell for Saturday’s broadcast, and with California Chrome’s popularity outside of the core racing audience, the numbers can start to make sense.

In 2008, the last time a horse ran in the Belmont with a Triple Crown chance, UPS reached a deal to sponsor Big Brown. The horse was eased in the race and finished last.

::2014 BELMONT STAKES: Latest news, video, and more

Skechers is based in California, where California Chrome is extremely popular. The sponsorship deal will require California Chrome’s owners and stable team to wear branded apparel in the winner’s circle if the horse wins, and the deal will stretch a month beyond the Belmont regardless of whether the horse wins, Sturner said.

“Sponsoring this horse with his uniquely California story makes perfect sense to us,” Skechers chief executive Robert Greenberg said in a release.

California Chrome is owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin and is trained by Art Sherman. The trio’s everyman story has boosted the horse’s popularity immensely.

California Chrome’s saddle towel, blanket, and other gear also will feature Skechers brands, according to the deal. The company’s New York showroom is sponsoring an event for the horse Tuesday night, Sturner said.