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WITH TORCH EXTINGUISHED, OLYMPIANS LOOK TO CASH IN;GOLD MEDALIST TEAMS ARE LIKELY TO SCORE AGAIN

By Published on .

Expectations for big product endorsement deals are soaring in the wake of the sponsor-soaked Centennial Olympic Games, but individual athletes are unlikely to become overnight millionaires.

U.S. Olympians with the best hopes for turning their gold into green include record-setting sprinter Michael Johnson, the women's gymnastics team, decathlete Dan O'Brien and swimmer Tom Dolan.

"We're not going to see a lot of instant Mary Lou Rettons coming out of this Olympics, despite all the publicity surrounding Kerri Strug and the other female gymnasts," said David Burns, president of Burns Sports Celebrity Service.

ARRAY OF OPPORTUNITIES

Instead, a larger number of athletes will cash in on a broader array of marketing opportunities than ever, experts said.

Women will take home a record amount of marketing gold after NBC's high-rated Olympic event; gold medal teams are likely to cut an unprecedented number of deals, while personal appearances will probably be a more profitable channel for many Olympic medalists than product endorsements.

NO QUICK DEALS

"It's the year of women at the Olympics, and there were a lot of

surprises, so don't look for quick deals," said Stephanie Tolleson,

senior VP at sports marketing agency IMG. "Smart marketers are going to

assess their opportunities to make long-term use out of entire teams for

tours and publicity, not simply for putting a face on a cereal box."

It will take weeks for marketers to finalize complex endorsement deals

with the gold medal-winning women's gymnastics, soccer and softball teams,

but opportunities for marketers are better working with the team than with

individuals, Ms. Tolleson said.

Sprinter Michael Johnson is emerging as the gold-shod front-runner in

commercial opportunities after last week's 200-meter dash, said to be the

fastest human sprint ever measured. Computer and telecommunications

equipment marketers are among top contenders to ink deals with Mr. Johnson

and also with gold medal decathlete Dan O'Brien, said sports marketing

experts.

"Michael Johnson will be huge-he's just what marketers are looking for

in total presence," Mr. Burns said.

GYMNASTS FOR WHEATIES

General Mills has already locked up the women's gymnastics team for its

Wheaties box and is likely to do deals with other medalists. Gymnast Ms.

Strug may also get her own box.

Multimillion-dollar book and movie deals are already in the works,

describing the drama of the women's gymnastics team's gold medal win and

the feats of Ms. Strug, Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes and Dominique

Moceanu.

Pharmaceutical companies are said to be swarming around star swimmer and

asthmatic Tom Dolan to back asthma remedies.

Swimmer Any Van Dyken is also attracting sponsors' interest.

Beach volleyball team gold medalist Karch Kiraly stands to increase his

own million-dollar endorsement portfolio,

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