SBD/August 3, 2012/Olympics

With All-Around Gold, Gabby Douglas Should See "Windfall" Of Sponsorship Opportunities

Douglas' Corn Flakes box will
hit shelves this fall
Kellogg’s has signed an endorsement deal with gymnast Gabby Douglas following her winning the all-around competition Gold Medal Thursday. The company plans to feature Douglas on special-edition boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes this fall. Kellogg's marks the second company to sign the all-around Gold Medal-winning teen. Douglas was virtually unknown to sponsors at the start of '12, as she did not sign her first deal with P&G until after she won the all-around competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Kellogg’s is a USOC and USA Gymnastics sponsor, as well as the title sponsor of the post-Olympics tour featuring the men’s and women’s gymnastics team. The tour will visit nearly 50 cities in the weeks after the Games. Speaking right after Douglas’ medal ceremony, USA Gymnastics President & CEO Steve Penny said that he and Douglas’ agent, Sheryl Shade, have already talked about what the 16-year-old can do for the sport. Penny wants to develop a PR strategy encouraging participation and diversity in gymnastics. “She’s such a fresh face and such a role model,” he said. “She’s a huge bridge for us to cross over and connect with on a diversity initiative. It’s not just her, either. It’s both our teams. They’re really a cross-section of America” (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).

WIDE POTENTIAL AS PRODUCT ENDORSER: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Fowler, Woo & Orwall report Douglas not only became the third consecutive U.S. gymnast to win the all-around Gold Medal but the first African-American to do so, and that distinction "may help broaden her appeal as she morphs from Olympic hopeful to commercial pitchwoman." The three previous U.S. winners of that event -- Mary Lou Retton in '84, Carly Patterson in '04 and Nastia Liukin in '08 -- have a "history of corporate pitching." However, Douglas' "winning smile and confidence sets her apart from some past champions who had gym chops but not charisma." Douglas said that she is "prepared ... for any endorsements that may come." She added that her manager "had given her 'a little scoop' -- but when pressed, she said, 'That's between me and them.'" Fowler, Woo & Orwall note Douglas' youth "gives her time to pile on more achievements -- possibly a world championship next year, and even" the '16 Rio de Janeiro Games. IMG Senior VP & Managing Dir David Abrutyn estimated that Douglas "could be looking at $5 million to $10 million in various corporate deals and endorsements over the next few years" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/3). Former U.S. gymnast Dominique Dawes stated Douglas “can expect endorsement deals to begin pouring in.” Dawes: “She’s going to start quickly recognizing that she’s a business, she’s a brand and she should be very selective in the people she surrounds herself with and the opportunities she decides to take” ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 8/3). Consulting Group Founder Dan Migala "does not believe that the possibility that Douglas will not compete in the 2016 Olympics will limit her endorsement opportunities" (FORBES.com, 8/3).

AMERICA'S NEW SWEETHEART: YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Eisenberg noted some sports marketing experts "believe Douglas could be even more appealing to corporate America than some of her predecessors because of her disarming smile, fun-loving personality and unique back story." Baker Street Advertising Exec VP & Creative Dir Bob Dorfman said that he expects Douglas to earn $1-3M "between the end of London 2012 and the start of Rio 2016." Dorfman: "Whoever wins all-around gold becomes the darling of America. ... That's usually where one of the most marketable athletes from the Games emerges, especially with somebody like Gabby who's really cute, very young and certainly has the potential to compete again in Rio." Douglas gained 50,000 Twitter followers "before the broadcast of the all-around competition even aired on NBC." Marketing Arm Senior Account Manager Matt Fleming: "Outside of the swimming guys, Phelps and Lochte, she has separated herself from everyone else winning this" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/2). Media consultant Joe Favorito said, “America is looking for heroes. We went into this looking for Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and we’re going to come out of it with a new gymnastics face, and that’s terrific” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 8/3). In Des Moines, Mark Emmert writes Douglas' "devil-may-care style and a joy that resonates all the way to the rafters stand to make her a bigger star, likely standing aside swimmer Michael Phelps as the face of these Games in America." Corporations will undoubtedly be calling Shade "with endorsement offers." Shade already has helped make '08 Beijing Games Gold Medal-winning gymnast Shawn Johnson "into a national brand." Douglas should be "just as easy to sell" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 8/3). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes a "triumph such as the one here will change her life forever." Madison Avenue "will call, and the fame and riches of an all-around gold will find Douglas soon enough." Graney: "Hello, Wheaties box" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/3). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, “She’s going to be the new Mary Lou Retton. She’s going to be the new Shannon Miller. ... She is going to be the toast of America, the queen of the Games. There’s no doubt about it” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/2).

I LOVE YOUR SMILE
: The AP's Nancy Armour wrote Douglas is "poised to become the biggest star since Mary Lou Retton." That smile "alone is enough to make Madison Avenue swoon, and her personality might just be bigger than she is." While Douglas' skills on floor "are impressive ... it's her personality that makes it a show-stopper." The crowd was "clapping almost from the opening notes of her techno music" (AP, 8/2). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes, "The face you're going to see everywhere now features a smile that can win over a crowd and an exuberance they might put on a Wheaties box" (K.C. STAR, 8/3). The AP's Will Graves writes Douglas "looks like she's having fun out there." She has "an energy that will make advertising executives swoon and likely turn her into a millionaire in the near future" (AP, 8/3).

MAKING A LEAP TO STARDOM: NBC News’ Chris Jansing said Douglas “really has that star quality." Jansing: "You can’t buy it, you can’t fake it, you can’t teach it” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 8/2). SI.com's Phil Taylor wrote, "Now she's Golden Gabby, international star, red-white-and-blue American icon and role model to millions, especially African-American girls." She is "Celebrity Gabby, sure to make the rounds of all the talk shows, certain to find herself in commercials and on billboards." Her only endorsement relationship "at the moment is with Procter & Gamble," but "that will change soon" (SI.com, 8/2). In Tampa, Gary Shelton asks, "Has any American gymnast ever had the potential to seed the dreams of more young gymnasts?" Shelton: "Say hello to Gabby Douglas. She is going to be a very, very big deal" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/3). In N.Y. Mike Vaccaro writes the London Games "will be Gabby Douglas' Games." She has "an engaging and infectious personality" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Matthew Engel writes, "A star was born: a 16-year-old American girl who now has the world at her very nimble feet" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/3).

LEAVING A LEGACY: USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside writes by becoming the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around Gold Medal, Douglas "is now a pioneer." She said, "Someone mentioned that I was the first black American (to win the all-around gold) and I said, 'Oh yeah, I forgot about that!' I feel so honored." Competing in a predominantly white sport, she said, "I hope that I inspire people. I want to inspire people. My mother said you can inspire a nation" (USA TODAY, 8/3). She added, “It’s so meaningful to be the first African-American to win the all-around Gold Medal in the individual. Making the history books is definitely one of the perks, and it just feels amazing” ("Today," NBC, 8/3). USA Today columnist Christine Brennan said, “It’s a great breakthrough win, not only for her but for those who look at the sport and see ... this lilywhite dominance of gymnastics. No more" ("NewsHour," PBS, 8/2). In Philadelphia, Phillip Lucas writes Douglas "turned into a role model for African-American youth who may not normally have considered gymnastics as an option" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 8/3). In Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes a "door had been opened, with some leaps and a smile." Calkins: "Can you imagine what Thursday meant to little girls of color? Someone who looked like them stood on the medal stand" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/3). ESPN's Jemele Hill said, "The Olympics are about winning, yes, but they’re all about moments too, and she gave us a moment that we won’t forget. ... We can’t underestimate what the racial importance is here ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/2). FOXSPORTS.com's Bill Reiter writes if Douglas "represents anything, it is that what we want to believe about the American Dream remains true" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/3).
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