SBJ/March 27-April 2, 2017/Marketing and Sponsorship

Shiffrin heats up slopes and sponsor market

Mikaela Shiffrin won the FIS World Cup overall championship this month.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The world’s best woman ski racer is American, 22 and camera-ready. But she also has seven sponsors already, a bevy of promotional commitments with NBC, and potentially five Olympic events just 10 months away.

Bottom line: There’s extraordinary demand for Mikaela Shiffrin and not that much supply.

After Shiffrin became the fifth American to win an FIS World Cup overall championship March 18, she and her agent, Kilian Albrecht, are now evaluating her endorsement options for the Pyeongchang Olympic cycle. There may not be that many new deals, Albrecht said, considering the slalom specialist’s ambitions to expand into the high-profile speed disciplines.

“The most important thing is for her to perform, and she can only perform if she has enough time in the day for training,” said Albrecht, a retired Olympic skier. “We need to limit all the other commotion.”

Shiffrin is in New York this week to appear at the NBC Olympics sales upfront and on “The Tonight Show,” and then will spend the latter half of April shooting promos for NBC and the U.S. Olympic Committee in West Hollywood and Mammoth Mountain, Calif. By August, she’ll be training full time.

Mikaela Shiffrin's sponsors

Atomic

Barilla

Leki

Longines

Oakley

Red Bull

Reusch

“In order to plan, we really need to know in the month of April if they need production days,” Albrecht said. “And that probably needs to happen in June or July, because after July there’s not much time.”

Olympic sponsors and others still making plans for Pyeongchang campaigns will be highly motivated to make it work, predicted Erin Weinberg, who scouts sports talent for brands.

“All of the things we look for, as marketers, in an athlete to potentially be paired with a brand, she has,” said Weinberg, group head of sports, entertainment and communications at United Entertainment Group. “She is talented, she’s got a great attitude, she’s well-spoken, she’s smart, she’s attractive and she performs under pressure at a very young age.”

While she’s hardly a newcomer — she won a gold medal in Sochi — Shiffrin is still relatively anonymous in the U.S. and can be presented as a fresh face. According to the Davie-Brown Index, she ranks 2,491st out of 4,000 celebrities in overall consumer awareness. By comparison, Team USA mainstays Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White rank in the high 800s.

That means a sponsor with plans to put Shiffrin at the center of extensive consumer-facing activations could have a leg up, even though that’s not as crucial as it would be for a true unknown, Albrecht said.

“She’s got a name already, but definitely in the U.S., skiing is not as big as other sports, so TV still helps for promotion,” Albrecht said.

Shiffrin’s nonendemic sponsors are Red Bull, Barilla pasta, Longines watches and Oakley sunglasses. She has ski equipment deals with Atomic, Leki and Reusch. All are long-term agreements.

Oakley is the only Olympic sponsor in the bunch. Typically, companies with either domestic or global Olympic deals sign athletes for Olympic-specific campaigns, but those short-term deals are hard to manage in light of everything else, Albrecht said. “I get it, but it’s definitely a challenge,” he said.

How many more sponsors she can accommodate, he said, depends entirely on how much media production time they need, the brand fit, activation plans and, of course, compensation. The ideal campaign, Albrecht said, would evoke the same image as the Longines slogan, “Elegance is an attitude.”

“That’s even the way she skis, and also is as a person, so that’s perfect,” he said.

For the Sochi cycle, Albrecht brought Octagon along for help representing Shiffrin for marketing purposes but expects to handle it alone this year. Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, also remains involved in handling her business affairs.

Shiffrin has less urgency to cash in on 2018 because she’s so young and, barring major injury, can realistically anticipate several additional Olympics.

“She’s by far the most interesting personality that’s begun winning that young,” said Tiger Shaw, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association CEO.


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