>Olympics Marketing Mania

2 Jul

>It’s not rocket science to expect that over the next two months you’ll see a LOT more ads and marketing campaigns featuring Olympic athletes, especially members of the gymnastics team and track and field. The marriage between Olympic sports and business has been a long and happy one, and it only figures to grow this year and in future Olympics.

Rarely, however, do you see Olympic stars transcend their “window” of fame and become full-fledged celebrities with staying endorsement power. You could argue people like Mary Lou Retton, Nancy Kerrigan and Brandi Chastain were able to make the jump, but it doesn’t happen often…it takes a certain level of accomplishment, luck, charisma and intangibles to make someone a good marketing investment over the long haul. Of all the athletes that will head to Beijing next month, I believe the strongest candidate to transcend his window will be none other than swimmer Michael Phelps.

Let’s consider the assets. All the experts believe he will win enough gold medals in Beijing to make him the single most decorated Olympic athlete ever, making him the bar-setter for excellence – a great brand builder for any company. He’s young and successful (23 years old), making him attractive to the groups with quite possibly the most available spending money: millennials, teens and tweens. Yet he’s extremely eloquent and well educated and (let’s face it) carries enough sex appeal to appeal to women and older demographics. He’s humble, crediting his mother, training partners and everyone else around him for his success – that adds to his “likeability factor.” Plus, he’s not done after the 2008 Games; the experts also believe he’ll make another run to participate in the 2012 Games in London, even if he doesn’t qualify in as many events. That means that any company willing to strike a deal with him now would position itself for success in another four years, when Michael Mania is in full swing again. It would behoove them to invest in him over the middle years to build his profile in anticipation of 2012, most notably at any number of international competitions on the schedule that will make him relevant on the sports scene and give him a platform to represent a company and its interests.

Best Buy, Apple and Visa, take note. Michael Phelps is available, but likely not for long.

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