Despite Coming Up Short At Olympics, Jones Wins At Marketing Game
U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones failed to medal yesterday in the 100-meter event, and the N.Y. POST’s Mike Vaccaro writes under the header, “Lolo Finishes 4th But Not Out Of The Money.” Jones entering the Olympics "wasn’t anywhere near the best 100-meter hurdler in the world, and she was clearly the third-best American, based on her barely eking into the field out of the trials. There was "never a chance she would get the magazine covers she got, or the endorsements, or the attention ... on merit.” But Jones had “two essential, timeless gifts entering an Olympic year.” Jones had her story, “starting with a hardscrabble upbringing and peaking with that spill in Beijing and culminating with her four-year pursuit of redemption” and she is “easy on the eyes.” Vaccaro: “That sells. That was going to sell even before she decided to add to the drama by proclaiming herself a 30-year-old virgin, thereby earning her a pew in the cultural conversation. She looks good in advertisements. She comes across well on TV.” Vaccaro asks, “What was Lolo Jones supposed to say when the marketing men came calling? No?” (N.Y. POST, 8/8). In Tampa, Gary Shelton asks, “How do you sell her now? How do you package fourth place? How do you market a pedestrian time?” Her critics “seemed everywhere, especially in the New York Times, proclaiming that her fame off the track had grown out of proportion to her lack of success on it.” Jones said of the criticism, “I heard it was quite bad. ... I guess all the people who were talking about me … they can have their night and laugh at me, I guess.” Shelton writes, “Here's the money question, however: What was Jones supposed to do? Turn the money down?” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/8).
HER SIDE OF THE STORY: Jones appeared live this morning on NBC's "Today" and emotionally discussed the fallout from the N.Y. Times article. NBC's Savannah Guthrie said, “You mentioned you’ve been dealing with a lot of tough stuff lately. The New York Times had a very tough piece criticizing you for being more image than accomplishment. How hard was that to deal with?” Jones: “It was crazy just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact it was from a U.S. media (outlet). They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I just thought that was crazy because I work six days a week, every day for four years for a 12-second race.” Jones, on the verge of breaking down, said, “The fact that they just tore me apart was just heartbreaking. They didn’t even do their research. They called me the ‘Anna Kournikova of track.’ I am the American record-holder indoors. I have two world indoor titles, and just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media. I laid it out there. I fought hard for my country and it’s just a shame I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is” (“Today,” NBC, 8/8). Jones was in tears following her fourth place finish last night, and in Memphis, Geoff Calkins sarcastically writes, “I suppose the tears, too, were conjured? Maybe those were part of the marketing plan” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/8).
DOUBLE STANDARD: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes, “It’s a nasty business, this Olympic star-making machine. These athletes have one chance every four years to rake in the real gold, the endorsement and appearance money that helps compensate them for years of training.” Most people “agree they would be fools to turn down the chance to capitalize on their success and enhance the quality of their often budget-strained lives.” Yet when Olympic athletes “seek and embrace this publicity, they are criticized unless they have the medals to back it up” (L.A. TIMES, 8/8). FOXSPORTS.com’s Greg Couch wrote, “It is not Jones’ fault that she knows how to sell herself. It’s actually important.” Jones has “sold herself endlessly, but that’s exactly what these athletes with short-term careers should be doing.” She was a “marketing creation, and now will have to go back to that.” Couch: “The self-marketing did her no harm, but instead gave her prospects. She just can’t think about that now” (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/7). In Newark, Steve Politi writes Jones' star turn was "all about ratings, and if Jones is a big enough star to make glib small talk on the ‘Tonight Show’ and pose in bikinis in magazines, why should they ignore that?” Jones should not be blamed for "benefiting from that attention” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/8). In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes, “Just because someone makes themselves famous doesn't mean the person is the best or even very good at anything in particular.” Purdy: “Jones doesn't seem like a horrible person. She just wasn't fast enough” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/8).