Northrim signs on as 2018 Iditarod sponsor, filling void left by Wells Fargo

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The Alaska bank signed up to support the Iditarod as a lead dog sponsor in 2018.

Months after the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race lost one of its top-tier sponsors, another has stepped in to take its place.

In a press release Friday, the Iditarod Trail Committee announced that Northrim Bank has signed on as a "lead dog" sponsor for the 2018 race.

Both Northrim and the Iditarod declined to say how much money the bank would contribute to the race. However, Alaska Business Monthly reported in 2014 that lead dog sponsors pony up between $100,000 and $250,000.

Lead Dog is the second highest tier of sponsorship for the sled dog race, with six other sponsors. The Iditarod lists four businesses as the race's "principal," or top-tier, sponsors.

In May, Wells Fargo, a former lead dog sponsor, dropped its longtime sponsorship. Wells Fargo officials cited a "regular marketing sponsorship review process" as its reason for withdrawing, while the Iditarod blamed "manipulative misinformation" from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, for the end of the 29-year-old sponsorship. The race has faced increased pressure from PETA after the deaths of four dogs during the 2017 race and one race dog that died outside Iditarod's care. It marks the most dog deaths since 2009.

[Iditarod blames PETA for loss of longtime race sponsor]

In an interview Friday, Iditarod spokesman Chas St. George said Northrim would be considered the "official bank" of the race.

St. George said the race has not determined who will take over the Gold Coast Award previously sponsored by Wells Fargo, or if it will even continue. The first musher to reach the Bering Sea coast at Unalakleet has traditionally won a prize of gold nuggets.

Northrim Bank marketing and communications director Kari Skinner said the bank was still working out exactly what the sponsorship would look like, though she said the sponsorship will include some "banking elements."

[Wells Fargo drops Iditarod sponsorship. Mat-Su looks into dropping Wells Fargo. Are the two connected?]

Skinner said the bank is aware of the concerns after the dog deaths during the 2017 race. But she said Northrim, as an Alaska-based bank, was proud to sponsor another "Alaska institution."

Skinner said the 2018 race marks the first time Northrim Bank, founded in 1990, has sponsored the Iditarod. According to the bank's 2016 Securities and Exchange Commission annual report, Northrim Bank reported a net income of $14.4 million in 2016, down from $17.8 million in 2015 and $17.4 in 2014. The bank has $1.5 billion in assets.

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