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Volume 24 No. 135

Marketing and Sponsorship

The U.S. Olympic squad has "finally found its Sochi star" in Gold Medal-winning skier Mikaela Shiffrin, according to Kurt Badenhausen of Shiffrin is "young, attractive, charismatic and represents the complete package for marketers." She already has a "half-dozen endorsement deals," including Oakley and Procter & Gamble, but her price tag "just went up." Shiffrin long has been compared to Lindsey Vonn, who has "parlayed her success and fame into an income of roughly" $3M a year, and she has the "potential to at least match Vonn off the hill when it comes to endorsement earnings" (, 2/21). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Turner, Novy-Williams & Coleman-Lochner report with the '18 Games being held in Pyeongchang, Octagon Managing Dir of Olympic & Action Sports Peter Carlisle is working with Kilian Albrecht, Shiffrin's manager, to find "new sponsors -- especially ones that appeal to an Asian audience." Carlisle declined to specify which brands "had discussed a Shiffrin sponsorship, though he did name Samsung as the kind of company that would make sense." He said, "You're talking about a company that's invested in the Olympic space, is global and is based in Korea. That's an example of why a particular company may be attractive." Carlisle indicated that it is "too early to tell what kind of potential Shiffrin has" as a celebrity endorser. However, San Diego State Univ. sports marketing professor George Belch noted that Shiffrin has "on-camera charisma and is young enough to have a long potential career ahead of her." He added that the combination could "bring sponsorship deals worth several million dollars" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/25).

A STAR IN THE MAKING: Baker Street Advertising Senior VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman in his Winter Olympics Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report gave Shiffrin the "Gold" and noted she is the U.S. Olympian "with the biggest upside." She is the "closest thing to a Winter Olympics 'It Girl' to come out of Sochi, and could be a medals and marketing force for the next two or three Winter Games" (THE DAILY). GMR Marketing Senior VP/Client Management Cameron Wagner said, "Coming out of Sochi, Mikaela is for sure the shining star. Especially from a marketing standpoint, too, there's just so much about Mikaela for sponsors to get around" (, 2/24). ESPN's Julie Foudy said of Shiffrin, "I have never seen an 18 year old as composed, as confident. She's smart, she's funny." Foudy added, "I have just been so impressed with her. I think this is a star in the making for sure" ("GMA," ABC, 2/22). ESPN's Jemele Hill: "There was so much talk about Lindsey Vonn not being able to compete and there goes the star power for skiing. And now we have maybe the future standing right there before us" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 2/23).

MADISON AVENUE IS CALLING: Dorfman in his report gave several athletes the "Silver," including skier Ted Ligety, snowboarder Sage Kotsenberg and ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Ligety "takes over for a likely-to-retire Bode Miller as the poster boy of men's alpine skiing," and he could "still be a factor in Pyeongchang, and a viable endorser through 2018." Kotsenberg also should "stay top of mind with the extreme sports demographic until the 2018 Games, where Sage will once again be the rage." Meanwhile, Davis and White, with "action figure looks, grace on ice and charm on camera" make a "lovely product-pitching pair" (THE DAILY). In Detroit, Jeff Seidel noted Davis and White have "a small window to capitalize on their Olympic Gold Medal." Octagon First Call Managing Dir David Schwab said, "The next four to eight weeks will be really important for them." But Seidel noted White and Davis have an "advantage over other Winter Olympians because they can join a skating tour and those tours already are linked to sponsors." Even better, they "should be able to charge more to appear at a show." Schwab said that it was "important to get Davis and White to New York or Los Angeles right away." He added, "I'd have them walk the halls of different companies and Fortune 500 companies, just to say hello, just to keep the interest level." Seidel noted it is "hard to predict which Olympians will hit it big with endorsements or how they might reinvent themselves." An Olympic athlete "needs to have the right personality and find the right vehicle" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/23).

SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jim Chairusmi noted U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn is the "winner of the Twitter Olympics." Quinn started February with "about 2,500 Twitter followers," but that "changed the morning after Sochi's opening ceremony, when Quinn wrote the tweet heard around the world." After his bathroom door got stuck, he sent out an image of what remained after he broke it down. The message was "retweeted more than 29,000 times, making Quinn an Internet sensation." Quinn's "sudden fame also led to a 960% gain in Twitter followers." The "silver medal" of the Twitter Olympics went to U.S. slider Noelle Pikus-Pace, whose Silver Medal win in the women's skeleton "resulted in a 854% jump to 15,400 followers." Joss Christensen took home the bronze amid a 780% increase in Twitter followers following his slopestyle skiing Gold Medal (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/22). USA TODAY's Chris Strauss noted Quinn's tweet "got him his own invitation to join a police SWAT team in Denton, Texas as well as an Internet meme where people tweeted photos of themselves breaking through various objects." Meanwhile, Kotsenburg after winning his Gold Medal tweeted out "his desire to get a medal made out of bacon." He later sent out a photo of the bacon medal he got during his appearance on TBS' "Conan" (USA TODAY, 2/24). Among int'l athletes, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris remains a breakout star, gaining more than 130,000 new Twitter followers during the Games, topping the 117,000 that U.S. snowboarder Shaun White got. Other notable foreign names include Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, British snowboarder Jenny Jones and Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer, all of whom gained more than 50,000 new followers (Ryan Baucom, Staff Writer).

Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard can "opt out of his shoe contract at the end of the basketball season and either renegotiate a more lucrative deal with adidas, or open negotiations with Nike, Brand Jordan, Reebok or Under Armour," according to sources cited by Chris Haynes of Lillard has the option after he was named NBA Rookie of the Year last year and an NBA All-Star this season, as well as reaching "other unique incentive clauses in his first two seasons." adidas "is in no position to lose" Lillard, as Bulls G Derrick Rose's "string of knee injuries ... has adidas apprehensive he can remain the company’s headliner." However, there likely will be a "looming, intense bidding war definitely on the horizon" (, 2/23). In Portland, Allan Brettman wrote Lillard has "emerged as the most marketable basketball player for Adidas." Until now, re-signing Lillard "was not expected to be a top off-season priority for Adidas," which also counts Rockets C Dwight Howard and Wizards G John Wall "among its endorsed athletes." Several reports also have indicated that adidas "was willing to spend whatever it took" to sign Kansas F Andrew Wiggins, who is "expected to be a one-and-done player after his freshman year" (, 2/24).

USA Track & Field two days after disqualifying U.S. 3,000-meter champion Gabriele Grunewald has "reversed its decision," according to German & Helliker of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Grunewald was disqualified for "clipping the heels of another runner on the final lap of a race at the U.S. indoor championships in Albuquerque." The move had come in "response to a protest from Alberto Salazar of Nike, who is a coach for many top distance runners." The disqualification of Grunewald, who is "sponsored by Brooks Running, opened a spot on the U.S. team for Jordan Hasay, an athlete sponsored by Nike and coached by Salazar." Dennis Barker, Grunewald's coach, yesterday said that he "believed the disqualification was granted largely on the basis of Salazar's outsize clout in the sport." USATF said that "nobody received special treatment in the process." Nike in a statement said that it "had 'no involvement' in Grunewald's disqualification or reinstatement or in the crafting of Salazar's statement." German & Helliker note sponsorships "accounted for 45% of USATF's budget" in '12. Nike is USATF's "largest sponsor, and Salazar is Nike's most prominent coach" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/25). In Indianapolis, David Woods notes Doyle Management Founder & CEO Paul Doyle, Grunewald's agent, also "represents Nike athletes such as decathlete Ashton Eaton and hurdler Lolo Jones." Doyle and Indiana Invaders track club coach Greg Harger said that USATF's "leadership and committee members, not Nike, were to blame for the latest incident." However, some athletes, "especially those affiliated with Nike, were reluctant to speak out on the latest dispute" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/25).

EPL club Manchester City has signed a multiyear partnership deal with camera company iON to become the club's official global sports action camera partner. The deal, which was formally announced last night, will see iON cameras being used for training, coaching and scouting. In addition, iON cameras also will be used to enhance the matchday experience of supporters through the installation of iON fan booths in BT City Square, the club’s purpose-built fan entertainment zone outside of Etihad Stadium. The Man City deal is iON's first with an EPL club (HJ Mai, SBD Global).

GOV'T SURPLUS: In DC, Steven Goff noted DC United yesterday formally announced that Virginia-based government contractor Leidos "will serve as the MLS club’s primary sponsor, a deal that includes the company’s logo on the jersey." Leidos said that the pact will "run three to five years." Sources added that the deal is "financially comparable" to DC United’s contract with Volkswagen, which expired in December. VW paid DC United $2.8M for the "first five years of the agreement and an undisclosed lower amount last season" (, 2/24).

THE PRICE IS RIGHT: In K.C., James Dornbrook notes Sporting KC's recent sponsorship deal with supermarket chain Price Chopper continues a "fairly unique" trend in pro sports in that all of the club's "major sponsors are locally based companies." Price Chopper signed a three-year deal to be the "title partner for Sporting Club Network, which handles all the team’s youth sports club affiliations." It joins Ivy Funds (shirt sponsor), Sprint, UMB Financial and Boulevard Brewing as major sponsors of the club. Sporting KC Chief Revenue Officer Jake Reid: "What sets us apart for sports teams in general around the country is how it’s very rare to have any of your owners living locally, let alone five owners living here in our area with businesses here and family here" (K.C. BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/21 issue).