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Going for Olympic Marketing Gold

Now that the London Olympics are but a memory, what do the athletes stand to make in endorsements? Depending on the athlete, the sport, and how many gold medals they’ve won, it could be millions. Michael Phelps earned an estimated $5 million a year in endorsement deals with companies like Speedo, Visa, and PowerBar—and that’s before being named the most decorated Olympian ever with 19 medals. Fellow swimmer Ryan Lochte won 5 medals and is already being approached for reality TV and may be next to appear on Dancing with the Stars! Gabby Douglas is expected to make millions in endorsements; she has already accepted a deal with Kellogg’s to appear on their Cornflakes cereal box. Winning the gold at the young age of 16, plus being the first African American to win the individual all-around gymnastics completion make her an attractive candidate for endorsement deals.

Not all Olympic athletes become millionaires after winning the gold, however: A recent survey conducted by the USA Track and Field Foundation found that only half of American track and field athletes who are ranked in the top 10% in their event earn more than $15,000 a year in income from that sport. Athletes without endorsements do get paid for winning a medal – $25k, $15k and $10k for gold, silver and bronze, respectively.

So what do companies look for in athletes who will represent their brands? They look for a defining characteristic (like smile or age), someone who is well spoken, attractive/sexy, and will participate in the next Olympic games. But why hire an Olympian? A lot of reasons. Associating a brand with an Olympic hero can enable the sponsor to:

  • Create feel good, philanthropic association with the brand
  • Show pride and support of your country
  • Block competitor exposure
  • Gain market share
  • Repair a negative image

Is an Olympic athlete marketing gold? Share your comments and thoughts about Olympic endorsements.

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