SBJ/March 3-9, 2014/Olympics

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  • Sochi surprises realign endorsement market

    Wasserman Media Group and IMG led U.S. sports talent representation agencies in the medal counts at the Sochi Olympics, but it may take longer than usual to determine who the real post-Games business winners are, Olympic industry experts said last week.

    That’s because many of the big stories and big stars who were expected to win going into Sochi — and therefore were promoted by sponsors and the media — didn’t win gold, if they won a medal at all.

    Skier Mikaela Shiffrin will have deals to announce soon, her Octagon agent says.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    “Going into the Games, there are about 10 major stories,” said Peter Carlisle, Octagon managing director of Olympics and action sports. “Stories that are in relevant sports where NBC is really pushing it, [the] USOC is really pushing it and you get some good corporate support. … A surprising number of those 10 didn’t even make the Games.”

    Pre-Olympic promotion begins several months before the Games and some of the big story lines were around skiers Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller, snowboarders Shaun White, Kelly Clark and Seth Wescott, and speedskater Shani Davis.

    “Lindsey Vonn doesn’t make it, Wescott doesn’t make it,” said Carlisle, who represents Wescott. “Shaun White doesn’t even medal.”

    Carlisle, probably best known for representing Michael Phelps, co-represents U.S. gold medal-winning skier Mikaela Shiffrin and said the 18-year-old may be one of the biggest stars coming out of the Games. Octagon represented a total of five medalists, including two gold medalists.

    “Yes, there will be [new] deals to announce in fairly short order,” Carlisle said of Shiffrin. Asked to name Olympians he doesn’t represent who he thinks will be post-Olympic winners, Carlisle pointed to skier Ted Ligety and ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Ligety is represented by Ken Sowles. Davis and White are represented by IMG.

    CAA, Octagon and IMG also represent several NHL players who won team medals in men’s hockey at the Sochi Games. SportsBusiness Journal chose not to include them among the medal counts in this report because those athletes get more exposure outside the Olympics, and they are not generally signed by agencies based on Olympic expectations.

    KEY CLIENTS

    Wasserman: Iouri Podladtchikov, Sage Kotsenburg, Torah Bright
    IMG: Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Ayumu Hirano
    Sheryl Shade (Shade Global): Devin Logan, Nick Goepper, Erin Hamlin
    Octagon: Mikaela Shiffrin, Jamie Anderson, Kelly Clark
    American Group Management (AGM): Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Julie Chu
    Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners (CSEP): Noelle Pikus-Pace
    Evolution Management + Marketing: Kaitlyn Farrington, Maddie Bowman
    CAA: Julia Mancuso, Bode Miller
    Ken Sowles: Ted Ligety, Hannah Kearney
    Aissam Dabbaoui: David Wise
    The Legacy Agency: J.R. Celski

    Typically, big stars in popular sports winning gold medals is what equates to future business, Carlisle said, but this Olympics was anything but typical. That potentially could open the door for new faces, or even athletes who didn’t win a medal but whose performances were memorable, Carlisle and other agents said.

    “One of the biggest stories was the fact our ice dancing team won the Olympic gold medal for the first time for the United States,” said Jay Ogden, IMG senior vice president of events and federations, who is responsible for IMG’s Olympic clients group. Among IMG’s roster is Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, a 15-year-old who won silver in snowboard halfpipe. “The sky is the limit for him,” Ogden said.

    IMG clients won a total of six medals, including two gold. But Ogden said he’s been around enough Olympics to know that what generates corporate interest isn’t just medals, but the stories around the athletes. IMG client Mao Asada also is generating a lot of interest in Japan despite not winning a medal. After falling and sitting 16th after the figure skating short program, she ended up placing sixth overall. “People respect the way she handled herself and persevered,” he said.

    Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners is an Olympic athlete representation firm that had seven clients who were expected to win medals going into Sochi. Only four of them did.

    There was a silver lining for CSEP, though, as one of its clients, U.S. women’s skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace, captured the silver medal after years of work and hardship and injuries. She also captured national attention by climbing into the stands to hug her husband and kids after her final run.

    “It’s really exploding with Noelle,” said Patrick Quinn, her agent and a partner at CSEP. “To give you an idea, going into the Olympics, Noelle would get $3,000 to $4,000 for a speaking gig. Now she is getting $15,000.”

    Pikus-Pace’s pre-Sochi sponsors included TD Ameritrade, AT&T, Kellogg’s, Under Armour and Procter & Gamble. Quinn said he was in talks to add more sponsors as well as other kinds of deals.

    “This guy wants to do a movie,” he said. “This guy wants to do a book. I can’t keep up with the requests.”

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