Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 22 No. 31
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Wasserman signs new pro Ledecky

Only 21, Katie Ledecky has already collected five Olympic golds and 14 world titles.
Photo: Getty Images

Five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky has chosen Wasserman to manage her new commercial career, giving the agency Team USA’s most marketable athlete currently expected to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


Ledecky ended her NCAA career on March 26 after two dominant years on the Stanford swim team, instantly making her eligible to cash in on her early career success. She’s won 14 world championships and six Olympic medals, and currently holds the world record in three long-course events.


Her representation at Wasserman will be led by Dan Levy and Lindsay Kagawa Colas, senior vice presidents of Olympics and women. Sources said Ledecky evaluated all of the major agencies before choosing Wasserman.


“Adding Katie is an incredibly impactful opportunity for us to continue our legacy of representing the very best and brightest female athletes in their sport,” Levy said. “Having someone who’s so young, accomplished so much and still has so much ahead of them, and can be this iconic force in her sport, those athletes don’t come around very often. So we’re clearly thrilled, and don’t take that responsibility lightly at all.”


Ledecky said she chose Wasserman because of the agency’s experience representing prominent women like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Hilary Knight. Also, she said, Colas and Levy were both college athletes like her.


“I felt really comfortable with them and liked that both are experienced working with many of the top female athletes in sport and are able to utilize all of the different resources that Wasserman has to offer,” Ledecky said in an email. “Finally, I had the chance to meet Casey at a few Olympic-related events, and aside from his passion for the Olympic movement, it is comforting to know that his name is on the door and he will be there to support me throughout my career.”


Ledecky, 21, can be expected to compete in at least three more Olympics — which happen to be set for the sponsor-friendly markets of Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles. She’s already one of the most decorated female U.S. Olympians of all time.


Also, there’s potential for massive sponsorship turnover in both the U.S. and international Olympics portfolio, meaning Ledecky could be a match for incoming brands eager to make a splash. Experts said her portfolio for the Tokyo Games could easily reach $3 million.


“There will never be another Michael Phelps, but if you’re looking at the next generation of Olympic heroes, this could be it,” said Greg Goldring, senior director of sports and entertainment for The Marketing Arm. “It will be interesting to see how she performs while also having to juggle the sponsorship and marketing side of the Olympic world.”


Levy said the first task is to sign a swimwear and apparel deal. One industry insider thinks Speedo, which sponsors Ledecky’s hometown team, Nation’s Capital Swim Club, has the inside track.


The broader universe of Olympic sponsors and other non-endemic brands won’t begin making budget decisions for the 2019-20 cycle until this fall.


Ledecky, whose uncle Jon Ledecky is co-owner of the New York Islanders, is only beginning to consider what kinds of companies she wants to be associated with, Levy said.


“It’s going to be a busy time, but that doesn’t mean we have to react, or she has to react to that sense of urgency,” Levy said. “I think it’s important that we are, and she is, strategic in how we approach this.”


Ledecky has two big intrinsic advantages, said David Schwab, executive vice president at Octagon: Americans already know her from two Olympics, and she could qualify for six events in Tokyo.


“She participates in a lot of events, and that puts her front and center every night on NBC,” he said.