Who will win marketing gold?

August 14, 2008

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Reuters story out of Beijing says Michael Phelps could rake in $30 million in endorsements. Not too shabby.

“In the short term, he is a gold mine because he represents everything that is pure, young, strong and visionary about America. We haven’t had anyone of this significance since Mark Spitz,” Eli Portnoy, chief brand strategist at the Portnoy Group, a U.S. consultancy specialized in branding, said in the article.

“Guaranteed there will be marketers wanting a piece of him that make no sense and it will interesting to see how his handlers cope with this and if they get greedy because the Olympics has a narrow avenue of marketability.”

Phelps already represents Visa, among many companies. And the Wall Street Journal says Visa is now hunting for the next batch of athletes who we’ll see splashed across magazines, billboards and television sets.

As the head of global sponsorship management at Visa Inc., (Michael) Lynch seeks out Olympic athletes to represent the brand. The company has sponsored U.S. Olympic athletes for more than 20 years, from decathletes to skiers, and now has deals with 15 U.S. athletes in sports such as track and field, snowboarding, BMX racing, gymnastics and swimming. It sponsors beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh and gymnast Nastia Liukin. It also has deals with more than 70 international athletes.

Even as Mr. Phelps and others go for gold, Mr. Lynch is talking to coaches, the U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC executives, looking for athletes who can represent the company in the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games. The goal is to find athletes who are relatively under the radar and may peak in three or four years, Mr. Lynch says.

This got us thinking. Who would you like to see featured in advertisements and promotions? What athlete seems the most marketable in your eyes?

Keep an eye on:

  • United Artists chief executive, Paula Wagner, has stepped down after less than two years on the job (LA Times
  • The International Olympic Committee has told YouTube to ake down a video that featuring Tibet protestors on the basis that it uses the copyrighted Olympic rings (VelleyWag)
  • According to the New York Post, Cherry Lane Music Publishing, home to song catalogs from Elvis Presley, Quincy Jones and the Black Eyed Peas, is exploring strategic alternatives that include a possible sale (NY Post
  • Cox Enterprises plans to sell some of its newspapers, including the Austin American-Statesman in Texas, as it seeks to pay down debt (Reuters)

(Photo: Reuters)

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