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SBD/January 24, 2014/Olympics
U.S. Bobsled Officials Deny Notion Lolo Jones Made Olympic Team For Publicity
Published January 24, 2014
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NBC DENIES PLAYING A ROLE: NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said speculation that the net pressured the USA Bobsled into selecting Jones, which has been ratcheted up by a recent Sports On Earth column from Selena Roberts, is "utterly ridiculous." NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel added it was "preposterous." Deitsch noted NBC is "short on pre-made star athletes heading into this year's Sochi Games," and Jones gives the net a "huge ratings opportunity for a sport that usually doesn't get mega primetime coverage." It is "not up for argument ... that NBC will ride the Jones story heavy over the next three weeks" (SI.com, 1/23). ESPN's Jason Whitlock said, "There is absolutely something fishy to this. ... This is a Winter Olympics that I don't think has a big television star to drive ratings" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/23).
NGB YET TO SEE TANGIBLE BENEFITS: Jones has not added any new sponsors since joining the Olympic team this week, and her representatives at The Legacy Agency said she does not plan to add any before the Games. Her existing non-Olympic sponsors Asics, Red Bull and Twin Lab will continue to feature her in marketing until January 30, when non-Olympic sponsors have to discontinue using Olympians to comply with IOC rules. Her two Olympic sponsors, McDonald’s and BP, plan to feature her in their social media programs throughout the Games. Jones made two media appearances this week with NBC -- Tuesday's "Today" and Monday's "Nightly News." However, the Legacy Agency’s Brandon Swibel said, "We’re getting a number of requests (from companies) but we’re turning everything down because her focus is on the Olympics. She just wants that medal." Steele said the NGB has benefitted from the media attention delivered by Jones and Lauryn Williams, a Gold Medalist in the 400-meter relay in London who also made the bobsled team. Steele hopes that attention eventually translates into sponsorship opportunities for the organization, but that has not happened yet. He said, "I’ve had one or two sponsors that have approached us because they were looking for a deal with (Jones) or access to her, but we don’t include specific athletes or promise athletes to a sponsor." Steele: "From a recruiting standpoint, it’s very good. It sends a message that a lot of people don’t realize: We can teach you how to bobsled. It’s one of the few sports you can get high-level athletes and teach them the sport in a couple of years" (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).