SBD/August 6, 2012/Olympics

Gabby Douglas' Gold Medal Will Be Worth Millions In Endorsement Deals

Douglas' deal with Kellogg's Co. is "just the beginning" of her endorsement potential
Gold Medal-winning U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas' deal "to front Kellogg's Corn Flakes boxes is likely to be followed by endorsement deals from major marketers looking to capitalize on America's newest sports star," according to E.J. Schultz of AD AGE. IEG Senior VP/Content Strategy Jim Andrews said, "She'll be at the top of the list for companies looking to do something with a U.S. Olympic athlete." He added, "She's definitely got the potential to earn millions." Andrews said that Douglas' deals with P&G and Kellogg "will likely preclude compelling personal care and food brands from making similar deals," but other categories "seem wide open, such as apparel." He added that Douglas is "not likely to reach the sponsorship saturation of Mary Lou Retton, whose stardom and endorsement power lived on for years" after she became the first American woman to win the all-around competition at the '84 L.A. Games. But Andrews said that if Douglas can "make it to the 2016 Games in Brazil, she could approach the endorsement value of someone such as Gold Medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps" (ADAGE.com, 8/3). In Des Moines, Mark Emmert in a front-page piece wrote Douglas' appeal for advertisers and fans, "is obvious," as she is a "gifted athlete whose joy always seems to be bubbling over." Inside Magazine Publisher Chris Korotky said, "She has the power, she has the style, she has the presentation, she has the personality. I can see her on magazine covers and TV commercials." Emmert noted media attention "will surely grow, and Douglas is likely to receive top billing" on the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions, a 40-city U.S. exhibition that will run from September to November (DES MOINES REGISTER, 8/5).

RICHES LIKELY WAITING FOR HER
: CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo said of Douglas, “There’s also that saying, ‘Million dollar smile.’ In Gabby’s case, she might have the first ‘Hundred million smile.’” America is "thrilled for her and Madison Avenue is thrilled to be making her offers that will make her a very wealthy young woman.” Kellogg's wasted "no time getting Douglas’ smiling face" on Corn Flakes boxes, but that is "just the beginning." Bartiromo: "She will have several advertising endorsements waiting for her when she gets home” ("Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo," CNBC, 8/3). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "If you’ve got that smile, if you’re well-spoken, if you’re somebody that has successfully ingratiated yourself with the American public whereas they’re looking at you and you’re a friendly face, you’re somebody they feel they can market, then they’re going to pounce on you immediately” ("Showbiz Tonight," HLN, 8/3). ABC’s Bianna Golodryga said the Corn Flakes box is “just the beginning of an endorsement cavalcade that could be worth millions of dollars.” ABC’s Cecilia Vega said the “sky’s literally the limit” for Douglas in terms of her marketing potential. Vega: “Gabby is expected to be endorsing products that appeal to a younger female demographic.” Former U.S. gymnast Shannon Miller said the “biggest thing that Gabby needs to think about is building that legacy, what is her brand, what is she all about” (“GMA,” ABC, 8/4). Madison Avenue Sports & Entertainment COO Ed Horne said of Douglas’ earning potential, “There’s all kinds of numbers that can be thrown out, but I think the most important thing is that it’s handled properly, she makes sure that she defines her brand and then you move from there” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 8/4).

LET'S MAKE A DEAL
: In N.Y., Juliet Macur noted Douglas has "a number of similarities" to Retton. However, the "one disadvantage is that she really did peak at the Olympics, so we're just getting to know her." Douglas signed her first sponsorship deal with P&G "a few days" after winning the Olympic Trials in July. Natalie Hawkins, Douglas' mother, initially "was nervous that all the top sponsorships were taken," but she "felt in her gut that waiting until the Olympics to sign more sponsorships was the right thing to do." Hawkins, "a single mother and debt collector, now can see that her intuition was spot on." Less than "18 hours after winning the all-around, Douglas was already on the cover of a cereal box." Macur: "Her rise into celebrity was steep" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/5). In Boston, John Powers notes Douglas after outscoring fellow U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber at the American Cup in March "wanted to cash in -- giving up her amateur status, and a possible college scholarship, in exchange for being able to make lucrative endorsements." Hawkins said, "I still said no. And then I had agents say, hey, look, if you don't hurry up all the deals are going to be gone, there's not going to be any money on the table." Powers notes Wieber and Aly Raisman "already had turned pro and others figured to follow." Hawkins had "spent more than $150,000 on Gabby's gymnastics with no promise that she'd recoup a dime." Hawkins said, "I didn't take it lightly. I weighed every single detail of that decision. I prayed on it, wrote a lot of pros and cons. I read a book about taking calculated risks." In the end, "she decided it made sense for Gabby to give up amateur status." The Games were "around the corner, and the way that Gabby fought through an ankle injury she sustained at the Pacific Rim meet convinced her mother that going pro was a sensible risk." Hawkins said, "I thought, OK, she's in it to win it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/6).
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