SBD/Issue 223/Olympics

Inside Pitch: Sponsors Flip Over Young Gymnast Shawn Johnson

Johnson Taking Impressive Endorsement
Portfolio To Beijing Olympics
First-time Olympian Shawn Johnson has dominated the sport of gymnastics, winning every event she entered in ’07 and this year claiming the U.S. all-around crown. At 16, Johnson is the new face of women’s gymnastics, not to mention the prohibitive favorite to win the all-around women’s competition in Beijing. And all of that success hasn’t gone unnoticed by sponsors, as Johnson has inked 12 endorsement deals since last year. Johnson’s agent, Sheryl Shade, said current sponsors already are "asking to extend and expand" their deals with the teenager. Shade also noted that Johnson has deals in the works with apparel and licensing companies, but would not reveal details. Shade has no doubt there will be more endorsement offers if Johnson medals in Beijing. However, finding "age appropriate" deals for Johnson is not always easy. Shade said, "It seems pretty obvious to me the things you wouldn’t go after for someone her age." But that does not prohibit sponsors from trying. Shade: "People love her Midwestern values. She’s definitely the All-American girl next door." The chart below lists all of Johnson’s endorsement deals.   

PARTNER
CATEGORY
SINCE
Coca-Cola*
Soft Drink
'07
McDonald's*
QSR
'08
adidas** Athletic Apparel
'07
GK Elite* Athletic Apparel
'07
Longines** Watches
'07
Hy-Vee* Grocery
'07
CoverGirl** Beauty
'08
Secret** Deodorant
'08
Sanofi-Aventis** Pharmaceuticals
'08
OroWeat** Baked Goods
'08
Ortega* Food
'08
Willis Auto/Land Rover^ Automotive
'08


NOTES: ^ = regional. * = national. ** = global.


FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
: Shade said working with and marketing Johnson is enjoyable because Johnson "knows what she wants." Shade: "She’s very focused and she’s young, so she has no baggage." Recently, Johnson received a red Land Rover courtesy of a dealership in her hometown of West Des Moines, Iowa. In exchange for the vehicle, the owner of the dealership did not ask for Johnson to participate in any commercials or print ads, but instead asked that she attend various charitable functions around the state. When it comes to deciding what products to endorse, Shade said Johnson, along with her parents and coaches, "look at everything." Shade: "Whenever anyone approaches, Shawn and her parents do their homework. But we really ask, 'Does she use the product and does she see her attributes and virtues align with them?'" For a newly licensed driver, Land Rover was a perfect fit.  

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