• 48°

Olympics: Phelps will cash in out of the pool

By Emily Fredrix
Associated Press
MILWAUKEE ó Visa Inc. popped out ads almost as quickly as he swam his laps. Pizza Hut is giving Michael Phelps and his teammates free pizza and pasta for a year for him beating Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in one Olympics.
The makers of a new sports drink are embarking on their first national advertising campaign, banking on his most recent swimming glories.
Phelps ó the biggest Olympic athlete in years, if not ever ó is everywhere this summer. And companies want to share in his fame. They’re taking out ads, pitching endorsements and giveaways.
The 23-year-old from Baltimore has proven himself in the pool, but will he sink or swim as a long-term pitchman on Madison Avenue?
“He is in the top tier of athletics and now he’s going to get his tryout as a personality,” said John Sweeney, director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “And Tiger Woods sure passed, but Mark Spitz didn’t. And there are plenty of people who they try to develop the whole persona around and two years later it’s gone.”
Phelps has won 14 gold medals, the most of any Olympian ever. Eight of those were at the Beijing Olympics, which end Sunday. His achievements at this Olympics broke American swimmer Spitz’s record of seven golds at the 1972 Olympics in Munich for most won in at one time.
Phelps already has top endorsements ó from companies like Visa, Speedo, Omega, Hilton, and AT&T. And he’s certainly got a big fan base ó or Phans as they call themselves. On the online networking site Facebook, more than 795,000 people have officially declared themselves fans of Phelps. That’s a boost of more than 120,000 just on Monday.
That’s a lot of people ó with a lot of buying power.
His agents at Octagon know it. Peter Carlisle, who leads the Olympic and action sports division there, told The Wall Street Journal in a story Monday he expects Phelps’ current earnings of between $3 million and $5 million a year should at least double, or more, because of his performance in Beijing.
“What is the value of eight golds in Beijing before a prime-time audience in the U.S?” Carlisle told the paper. “I’d say $100 million over the course of his lifetime.”
Visa, which has had a long-standing relationship with Phelps, was quick to put out new ads celebrating his big feats ó when he won his tenth career gold medal, which made him the winningest Olympian ever, and later, when he won his eighth gold at Beijing.
Phelps already has been one of the focal points of Visa’s ‘Go World’ campaign, which uses rich sepia tones and slow, focused shots to tell stories of athletes and the Olympics.
As soon as he hit the two milestones, Visa aired the new ads at the very next commercial break. The company also took out print ads over the weekend and on Monday.
In the television spots, actor Morgan Freeman narrates as pictures of Phelps swimming stream past:
“One gold medal is amazing. Two is … well … incredible. Three? Practically unbelievable. But eight? Eight gold medals? That’s … that’s well … well, we’re going to need some new adjectives for whatever that is. Congratulations, Michael,” said one ad.
Kevin Burke, head of Visa’s global consumer marketing, says the company is proud to have Phelps affiliated with the brand and wanted to recognize his achievements. Visa declined to say what it was paying Phelps, and it’s not clear yet where the pairing will go.
“We continue to evaluate post-Beijing activities that will allow us to reinforce our relationship with Michael,” Burke said.
New companies are coming after Phelps, too. Carlisle told the Journal he’s getting up to 50 pitches a day.
The beverage PureSport is about to launch its first national advertising campaign with Phelps as a spokesman. Phelps, who is sponsored by the sports performance brand, also drinks it, along with his teammates, said its maker, Human Performance Labs. Chief Executive Michael Humphrey said the company, not even a year old, plans a big campaign with Phelps and gymnast Nastia Liukin, who also uses PureSport.
“It’s huge. It’s the opportunity that no startup generally gets,” Humphrey said from Beijing. “With opportunity obviously there’s a lot of responsibility for us to take advantage of it properly and do it in a way that not only benefits the company but also benefits Michael.”
He said the company has a “substantial” multi-year deal with Phelps but declined to give specifics.
Pizza Hut, part of Yum Brands Inc., is giving Phelps and his teammates on the men’s and women’s U.S. swim team free pizza and pasta for a year.
Another one of his sponsors, Kellogg Co., is also looking to bank on the wins.
Though all these companies are clamoring over Phelps, it’s still not clear how persuasive a pitchman he’ll be. Other than in the pool, Americans haven’t seen too much of him ó but that’s changing.
Phelps made TV appearances after winning his medals. He’ll no doubt make the talk show circuit when he gets back to the states, appear at events and do speaking engagements, said Joe Terrian, assistant dean of Business at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Comments

Comments closed.

Crime

Blotter: Feb. 26

Crime

Salisbury, Kannapolis men charged with soliciting sexual acts

News

Racial bias ‘deeply entrenched’ in report critical of Apex Police Department

Nation/World

US bombs facilities in Syria used by Iran-backed militia

Elections

City council again dismisses idea of adding new member, focus now on recommendation to delay elections

Business

‘Let’s make some money:’ Loosened restrictions praised by bar owners, baseball team

High School

Salisbury High bucks historical trend in dominant shutout of West Rowan

Enochville

Garage declared total loss after Enochville fire

Crime

Cooper, N.C. prison officials agree to release 3,500 inmates

Coronavirus

Two more COVID-19 deaths reported in Rowan, six for the week

Crime

Blotter: Man brandishes AR-15, runs over motorcycle at Rockwell-area gas station

Crime

Salisbury man charged with exploitation of minor

Crime

Road rage incident results in assault charges

Local

Dukeville lead testing results trickle in, more participation needed

Education

Faith Academy interviewing staff, preparing site for fall opening

News

Volunteers work around obstacles, alter procedures to offer free tax services to those in need

Education

Education shoutouts

Local

Retired Marine gets recognition for toy collection efforts

Local

March issue of Salisbury the Magazine is now available

Education

Five get Dunbar School Heritage Scholarships

Education

Education briefs: Salisbury Academy fourth-graders think big as inventors

Education

Bakari Sellers keynote speaker at Livingstone College Founder’s Day program

Nation/World

Biden aims to distribute masks to millions in ‘equity’ push

Nation/World

Chief: Capitol Police were warned of violence before riot