SBJ/March 4 - 10, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

SFX Sports: TV movie among possibilities for bobsledders

Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers, the American bobsledders who emerged as surprise gold medalists during the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games, entered into a representation agreement with SFX Sports only a few days after their Feb. 19 victory.

Their agent at SFX, senior director of talent marketing Peter Raskin, said a television movie and book deal are among a "pretty heavy" influx of post-Games inquiries they are weighing.

Vonetta Flowers and
Jill Bakken

Both athletes have instructed SFX to position them as long-term ambassadors in the sport of bobsled in the mold of existing SFX Olympics stars and retired speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen.

"Neither one of them expected this," Raskin said of Bakken and Flowers. "One minute they are competing in the Olympics. Now, they're going down in history."

Flowers, 28, is history's first African-American Winter Olympics gold medalist. She was a successful track athlete at the University of Alabama-Birmingham who did not take up bobsledding until 2000. Bakken, 25, is a women's bobsled pioneer who has been on the national team since its first camp in 1994. Women's bobsled made its debut as a medal event at the Salt Lake Games.

Raskin said SFX will pursue appearances and product endorsements for the athletes both as a team and separately.

Going into the Games, they were overshadowed by the U.S. team of Jean Racine and Jen Davidson, aka the Bobsled Girls, who were widely marketed in national campaigns such as a frequently aired Visa television commercial. The team broke up when Racine, the driver, determined she would not qualify for the U.S team without improving her "start times." She fired Davidson and picked Gea Johnson. They qualified for the Games but finished fifth.

 BEYOND SALT LAKE, PART 1: In-line skater-turned-speedskater Derek Parra, who won a gold and a silver medal for the U.S. team in Salt Lake, travels to Europe this week to resume competition on the international circuit. His agent, Pat Quinn of Q Sports, said an immediate goal is to secure a long-term endorsement deal with Home Depot.

Parra, 31, the first Mexican-American Olympic champion, was among the athletes employed on flexible schedules by Home Depot as part of the Olympic Job Opportunities Program and its U.S. Olympic team sponsorship. Home Depot featured Parra and others, including skeleton gold medalist Tristan Gale, in a high-visibility TV ad campaign before and during the recent Winter Games. With his newfound celebrity, Parra might end up representing Home Depot but no longer punching a time card at one of its stores. Quinn also will position his client as a motivational speaker.

"If I do my job well," Quinn said, "Derek doesn't have to work for a long, long time."

 BEYOND SALT LAKE, PART 2: Octagon's Peter Carlisle, director of the agency's Olympic representation division, said snowboarding gold medalists and Octagon clients Kelly Clark and Ross Powers are resonating with corporations. He declined to specify with whom he is negotiating but said deals are pending. "They are a couple of kids from Vermont who are very genuine kids next door," he said. Meanwhile, liver transplant survivor and Olympic snowboard bronze medalist Chris Klug is booked into October as a $10,000- to $20,000-an-appearance motivational speaker. He also is an Octagon client. ... Although two of his favorites to claim gold departed the Games without medals — freestyle aerialist Eric Bergoust and bobsledder Jean Racine — agent Evan Morgenstein said freestyle moguls silver medalist Travis Mayer, 20, a Cornell University student, is in demand. Mayer made paid appearances for Monster.com and HealthSouth after his trip to the medals podium. Morgenstein said he is talking to both companies about extended contractual relationships.

 POST-OLYMPICS ICING: A 45-city tour starring Canadian Olympic pairs figure skating co-champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier remains under consideration. Its sponsors would include Crest Whitestrips, a dental hygiene product with whom the pair recently signed an endorsement deal through their agent, Craig Fenech. The tour would be produced by Edge Marketing of Charlotte. ... Ice skating promoter Tom Collins confirmed that 16-year-old Olympic skating champion Sarah Hughes will appear, as previously billed, in Collins' annual John Hancock-sponsored Champions on Ice tour, which opens April 3. Gold-medal favorite Michelle Kwan, who earned a bronze medal in Salt Lake, also returns. ... Hughes is represented by her father, Manhattan lawyer John Hughes, who is not a novice in sports representation. Earlier in his career, he was associated with longtime sports and entertainment agent Art Kaminsky. ... Three-time Olympian and six-time U.S. skating champion Todd Eldredge has joined IMG's Target Stars on Ice tour. He previously appeared with Champions on Ice, though he has been an IMG client for several years.

Steve Woodward can be reached at SteveWoodwardHere@hotmail.com.

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