Blog In-Depth: Staying power and sponsorships for Olympic athletes

Buzz Manager ™ analyzed blog discussion of the potential for sponsorships and “staying power” for Olympic athletes. Bloggers believing that certain Olympians could translate their success into long-term visibility were counted as positive. Bloggers believing that no matter how successful they are, athletes whose sports are featured only once every four years will quickly fade from the public eye after the Games are over were counted as negative.

The Buzz ranked 3 out of 10, a topic of a low level of interest among sports bloggers:

Bloggers in the Positive category felt that perhaps if anyone could do it Michael Phelps could emerge from the Olympics as a star and remain in the public eye for an extended period of time. There was a definite sentiment that the strategy taken by Phelps and his agent would be critical. Many felt Phelps needs to “strike while it’s hot” to maximize his marketability. There was little positive blog discussion about the staying power potential of other U.S. stars such as gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. The potential for stardom for Dara Torres was mentioned, with the thought being she could do well in the “mom” demographic.

– Bloggers in the Negative category were few. They felt that even with Phelps’ enormous success at these games, consumers will quickly shift their attention to more popular, seasonal sports once swimming is no longer being featured. The missed opportunity of Tyson Gay to capitalize on an Olympic performance was also mentioned. The sentiment was Gay not qualifying for the final in the 100m and being part of the 4 x 100m relay team that dropped the baton likely cost him a great deal of sponsorship income and exposure that could have boosted his staying power.

Bloggers in the Neutral category were unsure of the staying power of many Olympic athletes. Some bloggers were speculating about which companies would be lining up to make deals with Phelps.  There was more discussion of Liukin in this category, many thinking the VISA commercial featuring her may help boost her brand, but that the successes of both Liukin and Johnson were overshadowed by Phelps, hampering their chances of remaining in the public eye.

Among the Beijing Games’ other disappointments: American sprinter Tyson Gay. Following an injury-plagued summer, the widely hyped track-and-field star not only botched the baton exchange during the men’s 4×100 relay semifinal, but he failed to qualify for the 100-meter final, much less medal, throwing his marketability into question. … In addition to hurting his ability to score new endorsement deals, Gay’s falter will likely impact those he already has. By not providing a gold-medal performance to tout in future advertisements, the significant upside that might have been from sponsors like McDonald’s, Omega and Adidas will most likely disappear.”  – Beijing Olympic Games Blog

There is a lot of buzz this week about which American Olympic athletes have the strongest endorsement potential. … If done correctly, Olympic athlete licensing, for the most part, is a great example of a smart strategy for short-term awareness building for a brand. Why? The reality is few Olympic athletes have long branding life spans. … The Olympics is only held once every four years. After a year or so, Americans forget about the Olympics and move to stars they see more. Kids want someone else on their Wheaties box.” – License to Brand

Can Michael Phelps turn swimming into a bigger sport with more traction than just the past week at the Olympics? Here are five tactics he and his team might consider, not to impact the number of people joining swim clubs, but to impact the number of casual fans consuming: … For better or worse, Phelps is his own best marketing tool. TV networks can’t get enough. Marketers can’t get enough. Fans, apparently, can’t get enough. He will have to boost interest by keeping himself at the center of the swimming universe – that means racing. Or, at the very least, sitting in the announcing booth next to Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines.” – Dan Shanoff


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