SBD/August 6, 2012/Olympics

Majority Of Medal-Winning Olympians Will Not Cash In Financially On London Success

Vincent Hancock among U.S. Gold Medalists who may not strike it rich
The majority of Olympians are "likely to find that life after gold is not very lucrative," according to the N.Y. TIMES' David Segal, who wrote under the header, "They Win Gold, But A Pot Of It Rarely Follows." There are "always a handful of breakout stars in the Games, and the most compelling and accomplished will turn up on Wheaties boxes or in Adidas ads." However such "triumphs are the exception." Octagon Managing Dir of Olympic & Action Sports Peter Carlisle, who reps Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, said, "If you're an American, you need to stand out, you need to be distinguishable. There's no way all the gold medal American swimmers will wind up in the mainstream market." Segal wrote the "trick is to be introduced to the public before your event takes place, so that the public knows you pre-triumph." To qualify "for that kind of TV time, you need a personal tale that wins the attention of NBC producers, who, courtesy of their broadcasting rights, are arguably the real king makers here." American Group Management Managing Partner Brant Feldman said, "Marketers want to sell your gold medal attributes but they also need a back story to help them sell products to Middle America" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/4).

THE VALUE OF GOLD: In Phoenix, Jeff Marshall wrote Silver and Bronze Medals are a "clear indication of an athlete's worldwide dominance in his or her sport, but to major brands writing the checks, they aren't good enough." San Diego State Univ. Marketing Dept. Chair George Belch said, "If you look at the people who've been able to cash in on endorsement deals, it's almost always people who win gold." Phoenix based sports marketing firm Lavidge Co. Dir of Business Development David Nobs said that a Gold Medal is "the trump card for athletes seeking endorsements," but there are other considerations. Nobs said, "There could be a silver or bronze medalist who has such a unique story and such a fit with a sponsor or brand that I wouldn't discard that." Marshall noted marketing execs are "quick to point out that the gold-only bias applies primarily to the United States and other highly populated countries." In smaller markets, "and where the media are less saturated by sports, even a bronze-medal winner can command significant attention." But regardless of the country, "a medal winner must pursue their endorsement opportunities quickly." MediaCom Global Head of Sports Marcus John said, "Athletes need to strike quickly or they're going to disappear" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/5).

DOING WHATEVER YOU CAN DO: U.S. female weightlifter Sarah Robles' financial struggles while pursuing Olympic Gold were profiled on NBC's "Nightly News" last night, with NBC’s Brian Williams saying, “We’ve heard a lot about the stars of these Games, some of the big ones sign endorsement deals the moment they step off the medal stand. But for every Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin, there are literally hundreds of young men and women who will never see that kind of fame or fortune." Robles prior to the Games posed for a photo shoot in heels and a dress “to pitch potential sponsors” and in turn “hopes to change the image of women weightlifters.” Robles: “A lot of people think that weightlifting will make you masculine or will change who you are, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re still women.” Anne Thompson said Robles “has the glory" as a three-time U.S. national champion, but "not the riches,” as weightlifting "doesn’t pull in big-time endorsements” ("Nightly News," NBC, 8/5). Robles finished seventh yesterday in the super-heavyweight division (THE DAILY). 

BREAKTHROUGH BRIT: MARKETING magazine's John Reynolds notes British heptathlete Jessica Ennis could net US$4.67M "a year in sponsorship deals" following her Gold Medal-win in the heptathlon on home soil. Ennis "already had a string of endorsement deals, including ones with Jaguar, Coca-Cola-owned Powerade, BA, Aviva and Procter & Gamble's skincare brand Olay." Marketing experts said that Ennis' commercial appeal "will now rocket." brandRapport Sports Marketing Dir Nigel Currie: "Because of the number of medals Britain has won, there will be even more competition for the lucrative marketing contracts but Ennis has clearly emerged as the big star." Ennis' deal with adidas "is thought to be worth around" US$498,519, which is "more than any other British athlete" (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 8/6).

RULES OF THE GAME: Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer Missy Franklin reiterated that she still plans to put off turning pro in order to swim in college. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie told her, “There will be a flood of sponsorship offers I’m sure." Franklin: “I know that there’s definitely going to be a talk in the future with my family and my coach just trying to figure out what is best for me. But I do want to swim in college so badly” (“Today,” NBC, 8/6). Meanwhile, in Denver, Mark Kiszla noted the “ultimate worth” of Franklin's medal haul "is tangled up in NCAA red tape.” Each individual Gold Medal “won by Franklin is worth $25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee’s standard bonus.” By winning the “backstroke at both 100 and 200 meters, she is guaranteed at least $50,000, plus lesser dollar amounts as a member of three American relay teams that captured a medal.” USA Swimming PR & Social Media Dir Karen Linhart said that the amount is money Franklin “can keep with no impact upon her amateur status with the NCAA.” However, Kiszla noted it "gets really interesting and more than a little confounding” when USA Swimming “bumps the reward for each individual gold medal by a sweet $75,000.” Although “contacted well before Franklin made a major splash in the Olympic pool, NCAA officials have not informed USA Swimming if acceptance of this additional $150,000 in earnings would make Franklin ineligible to compete" in college (DENVER POST, 8/5).

WHATEVER LOLO WANTS, LOLO GETS: In N.Y., Jere Longman wrote U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones "seems to have only a slim chance of winning an Olympic medal in the 100-meter hurdles and almost no possibility of winning gold." Still, Jones "has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games." This was "based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign." Jones essentially has "decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be -- vixen, virgin, victim -- to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses." If there is "a box to check off, Jones has checked it. Except for the small part about actually achieving Olympic success as a hurdler." Univ. of Western Ontario Int'l Centre for Olympic Studies Dir Janice Forsyth said, "It reminds me of Anna Kournikova. ... Limited opportunities are there for women to gain a foothold unless they sell themselves as sex kittens or virgins for sale. I don't know if this is Lolo being Lolo or part of a marketing scheme to remain relevant in an Olympic industry where if you are not the Olympic champion, you are nothing" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/5). DEADSPIN.com criticized the tone of Longman’s piece under the header, “What Did Lolo Jones Ever Do To The New York Times?
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