Speed + Personality + Nation = Endorsement Gold
Speed wins, as the big endorsement dollars among London Olympians are sprinters. Sponsorship Today has a new compilation of athletes and their sponsorship money, but it excludes athletes whose endorsements are not derived from their activities as Olympians. Thus, you won't see basketball or tennis stars who are slumming it in London.
Usain Bolt is on top. The world's fastest man earns at least $20 million per year. That includes a $9 million that makes him Puma's global brand ambassador. He is, according to the UK-based publication, the only Olympic athlete to make Forbes' top 100 earners among sports stars.
The publisher points out that the U.S. has no big-money track and field athletes such as was the case when Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith-Joyner or Edwin Moses dominated the Games. "Any one of these would easily command annual endorsements totaling at least $8 million," says the mag.
What else makes up for sheer performance? Country, since the richer a nation is, the more its athletes make. Also big are personality and back story. For the latter, Oscar Pistorius, who competed in the regular games as a runner using prosthetic Cheetah composite legs, is the prime example. Sponsorship Today points to Jessica Ennis, the face of the Games in Britain, whose marketability is boosted by her "girl-next-door" image -- and of course, she won gold for Britain.
The big earners who follow Bolt about as distantly as competitors in his races are Kim Yuna, the South Korean ice skater who made $9 million from Kookmin Bank, Nike, Korean Air, and Hyundai. Then comes swimmer Michael Phelps, who raked in $7 million from Speedo, Visa, Omega, and Under Armour. Liu Xiang, a hurdler from China, made $4 million or so from Nike, Visa, Chevrolet, Yili milk, China Mobile, and Coca-Cola. In fifth place is Yelena Isinbayeva, a Russian pole vaulter, who snagged about $2.7 million from Li Ning, P&G, and Visa. Also in the $2 million-plus club are sprint hurdler Lolo Jones from the USA ($2.7 million) who pitches BP, Asics, Oakley, P&G, and Red Bull; Ryan Lochte for Speedo, Mutual of Omaha, Gillette, Gatorade, P&G, Ralph Lauren, Nissan, and AT&T; Sanya Richards-Ross from the U.S., who pitches Nike, Inc, BP, BMW, Citibank, and Amway; and Pistorius, who has picked up Nike, Thierry Mugler, Oakley, and BT.
Ennis made $1.7 million from Adidas BP, British Airways, Aviva, Powerade, and Olay, while Sir Chris Hoy, the UK cyclist, grabbed $1.5 million from Kellogg, Harrods, Highland Spring Water, Adidas, and Scottish Power.