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Volume 26 No. 60
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Ashton Eaton, English Gardner Highlight Visa's List Of Potential Olympian Endorsers

U.S. Gold Medal-winning decathlete Ashton Eaton, U.S. sprinter English Gardner and U.S. triathlete Gwen Jorgensen are among the 33 Olympic hopefuls signed so far by Visa heading into the '16 Rio Games, the worldwide sponsor will announce today. Visa will use the athletes in a global marketing campaign promoting its digital payment innovations, said Visa Senior VP/Global Brand, Product & Sponsorship Marketing Ricardo Fort. Along with their chances of success in Rio, Visa selected the athletes based on their personal track record in innovating, whether it be in training tactics, equipment use or other unconventional methods. The list’s nationality breakdown reflects Visa’s global business priorities, with eight athletes from Olympics host country Brazil, six each from the U.S. and Canada and three from Russia. Visa will disclose the full list later today, but Fort called it a work in progress and said the final roster would include 40-50 athletes. Five of the 33 announced today are Paralympians. Visa, rated as the best-known Olympics sponsor by sports execs in a Turnkey Sports poll in July, has endorsed more than 300 athletes and is closely watched for its choices and tactics each cycle. Some of the athletes have long been associated with Team Visa, or have been previously announced, such as USWNT F Carli Lloyd, who signed shortly after winning the World Cup in July, or New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams. Longtime Visa-sponsored beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings and paralympian Alana Nichols round out the U.S. part of Team Visa. Canadian swimmer Ryan Cochrane and Brazilian basketball player Tiago Splitter are among the most prominent global members.

ATHLETE
SPORT
TEAM
ATHLETE
SPORT
TEAM
Ashton Eaton
Decathlon
U.S.
Jennifer Abel
Diving
Canada
English Gardner
Track & Field
U.S.
Ryan Cochrane
Swimming
Canada
Gwen Jorgensen
Triathlon
U.S.
Mark de Jonge
Canoe
Canada
Carli Lloyd
Soccer
U.S.
Benoit Hoge
Paralympic Swimming
Canada
Alana Nichols
Parakayak
U.S.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton
Track & Field
Canada
Kerri Walsh-Jennings
Beach
Volleyball
U.S.
Pamela Ware
Diving
Canada
Sally Pearson
Track & Field
Australia
Chen Long
Badminton
China
Rebeca Andrade
Gynmastics
Brazil
Zhang Peimeng
Track & Field
China
Leandro Aparecido da Silva
Equestrian
Brazil
Maria Pajon
Colombia
Cycling
Alison Cerutti
Beach
Volleyball
Brazil
Daiya Seto
Swimming
Japan
Daniel Dias
Paralympic Swimming
Brazil
Kanako Watanabe
Swimming
Japan
Terezinha Guilhermina
Paralympic Track & Field
Brazil
Maria Espinoza
Taekwondo
Mexico
Emanuel Rego
Beach
Volleyball
Brazil
Ivan Garcia
Diving
Mexico
Bruno Rezende
Volleyball
Brazil
Valerie Adams
Track & Field
New Zealand
Tiago Splitter
Basketball
Brazil
Yana Kudryavtseva
Rhythmic Gymnastics
Russia
 
Svetlana Romashina
Synchronized Swimming
Russia
 
Olesya Vladykina
Paralympic Swimming
Russia
 
Kim Jae-Bum
Judo
South Korea

FISH OUT OF WATER: Notable for his absence from Visa's list of endorsers is 18-time Gold Medal-winner Michael Phelps, who had been a Team Visa member since the global concept was created in '04. “He may be part of Team Visa in the future, he’s just not as of today,” Fort said. Octagon Olympic & Action Sports Managing Dir Peter Carlisle, Phelps’ agent, said, “We have been in discussions. They have indicated their interest to continue with Michael, but we haven’t made any decisions yet.” Visa requires all Team Visa athletes to sign the same terms despite their widely varying value as commercial assets, banking that some elite athletes will sign at below their market value in exchange for the prestige and worldwide platform Visa offers. Sources pegged the price of the deals around $20,000 including performance incentives, a fraction of what well-known, elite Olympians can make in a sponsorship deal. Visa declined to comment on terms.

CHECKOUT TIME: Twenty-five of Visa's athletes converged this week at the company's S.F. HQ for a seminar, where Visa taught classes in social media marketing, financial literacy and media relations training. They also received training in Visa Checkout and Samsung Pay, two payment systems that Visa will implement in Rio, where it is the exclusive credit card provider. Fort said Visa is now evaluating which athletes’ innovation stories work best in each country for possible TV commercials and other campaigns. “There are some athletes that are either running, or swimming or jumping in a different way, because they realize that’s better,” Fort said. “So this is a different take on their sport, and this is a way to tell how they are changing their games by doing things different, which again is a great metaphor for how Visa changed the payment landscape by doing things differently."