SBD/March 9, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Ryan Lochte's Projected Success At London Games Draws Sponsors

Speedo is one of five companies Lochte currently has an endorsement deal with
U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte is projected to win as many as five individual gold medals during the London Games, and those "golden opportunities make Lochte a rarity among American Olympians: an athlete who doesn't send fear running down sponsors' legs," according to Matt McCue of ESPN THE MAGAZINE. Lochte currently has endorsement deals with five companies -- Gatorade, Ralph Lauren, Gillette, Mutual of Omaha and Speedo -- and the "bonus-loaded contracts ... could earn him" between $3-4M. His camp "expects him to ink more deals as the Games approach, including an offer from another P&G brand and two other companies." Global brands have "often shied from backing swimmers because they spend their races either under­water or half-hidden by goggles," but companies have "jumped into the pool with Lochte because they liked the look of Michael Phelps' chest full of Beijing gold and are willing to place the same bet on Lochte." A Bloomberg Businessweek report indicated that if he "maxes out in London, there's reason to think Lochte could approach Phelps' medal haul from 2008 and his endorsement windfall" of up to $5.25M last year. McCue notes sponsors "view other Olympic athletes, especially those who focus on one event, as serious choking hazards." From a corporate sponsor's perspective, the "risk of running a pre-Games campaign is compounded further because even the best athletes aren't guaranteed spots on the team until they qualify during trials." Reebok in advance of the '92 Barcelona Games launched the "Dan and Dave" campaign, promising a "duel between the world's two best decathletes, Americans Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson." But O'Brien failed to qualify at the U.S. Olympic trials and Reebok's $25M marketing effort was "suddenly irrelevant." Twenty years later, the ads "serve as a case study for what not to do when building an Olympic-brand platform" (ESPN THE MAGAZINE, 3/19 issue).
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