The 2012 Summer Olympics

Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report 

The ratings were huge, the drama compelling, and Team USA’s medal haul led the world. But now that the London Games are over, and most Americans return to ignoring swimmers, sprinters and gymnasts for the next four years, do any of our athletes have what it takes to stay golden on Madison Avenue?

Here’s how this judge scores them on marketability:




Usain Bolt.  Michael Phelps may be the most medaled Olympian, but with $20M in annual earnings, Bolt is the most marketable. His Puma deal alone is worth $9M a year, and he commands as much as $350,000 per appearance fee—worth it as he ensures a full house. Three London sprinting golds secured his status as the World’s Fastest Human, and could be worth an additional $3-5M in annual endorsement income. Bolt’s crowd-pleasing charisma, showmanship and Ali-esque bravado are a refreshing change from the stiff, toe-the-line intensity of most other Olympic athletes. Plus, that Jamaican accent is always fun to hear. Bolt’s other deals include Gatorade, Visa, Hublot and Virgin Media, and he certainly qualifies to pitch any product or service built for speed—fast cars, fast food, fast ISPs, fast-actin’ Tinactin. He’s also hoping for a soccer tryout with Manchester United, which could make for a highly entertaining reality show. And his photography efforts following his 200m win could even land him a Nikon deal. With Usain talking about running in Rio, you’ll likely need at least a four-year deal—and a seven-figure bankroll—to catch him.


Michael Phelps.  The Greatest Olympian of All Time now dives into his greatest challenge: staying relevant with consumers while retired from competition. He’s already landed a spot on The Golf Channel as the next student on The Haney Project. And it seems that whatever he wants to do now—improve his golf game, grow his sport, swim with sharks—he’ll have plenty of sponsor support to make it possible. Currently earning around $5-7M a year from his current marketing partners, Phelps, now a sports icon, should be able to maintain that level in the short term, and will likely focus on extending his current deals, expanding his brand globally, and making the transition from sportsman to businessman. Perhaps in the same way that Nike established the Jumpman brand for Michael Jordan, Under Armour could develop a Goldenboy brand around Phelps. As a “retiree,” he could also land a deal promoting IRAs for any financial institution. And there’s always a gig as poolside reporter at the Rio Games. Or maybe a role in “Aquaman, The Movie.” Even if Phelps never returns to the pool competitively, a combination of speaking engagements, appearance fees, memorabilia sales and brand ambassador gigs will likely keep him earning seven figures annually for many years. At the least, he’ll never have buy a drink, meal or bong hit for the rest of his life. And should he change his mind and decides to compete in Rio, the sky’s the limit.


Gabby Douglas.  The all-around gymnastics gold medal makes Gabby the “It Girl” of the London Games. And though her performance in other individual events was less than medal-worthy, she comes home as America’s most marketable female Olympian. She’ll be hard to miss in the next few months: on Kellogg’s boxes, talk shows, awards shows, reality series, magazine covers, you name it. Her infectious smile is perfect for dental care products, her face ideal for cosmetics ads, and her nickname, “Flying Squirrel,” could work for any U.S. airline. Or how about Gabby performing a “balance check” on her growing Bank of America account? Or together with the rest of the Fierce Five—flipping, vaulting and tumbling over each other to be first into a sale at Target? And considering that the 16-year-old doesn’t yet have her driver’s license, a smart car company could build an entertaining campaign that follows her through the process. If you’re looking to appeal to the young teen and pre-teen female demographic—and their parents—Gabby’s your girl.


Ryan Lochte.  Lochte can’t beat Phelps in medals, but easily wins in looks. And combined with his easy-going, surfer dude personality—and unguarded accessibility—Lochte’s a marketer’s dreamboat. Who else would wear a U.S. flag grill at a medal ceremony, or admit to peeing in the pool? Ryan’s right on for Abercrombie & Fitch, Hanes underwear, Axe deodorant, or any other body-revealing campaign. And he’s already expressed an interest in doing a reality show like Dancing With The Stars or The Bachelor. As an aspiring fashion designer, he might even qualify for Project Runway. A worthy candidate to host SNL, too. With plans to compete in Rio, Lochte’s a lock to stay relevant for a while, and could command seven-figure, multi-year deals. Unless he does something really stupid. Oh, and is Lochte the perfect guy to play a Jeff Spicoli-type character in your next TV show or film? Jeah!


Missy Franklin.  The breakout swimming star of the London Games, Franklin has a captivating personality to go along with her impressive stroke. Still in high school, she’s passing up seven figures in endorsements by choosing to remain an amateur to compete in college. But expect her to turn pro in time for the 2016 Rio Games, where she’ll be the most-hyped female athlete going in, and highly sought after by marketers of everything from cosmetics to fast food to energy drinks. You don’t want to miss out on Missy. Call now to get on her endorsement waiting list.

Oscar Pistorius.  The Blade Runner didn’t need to medal to inspire the world. A marvel to watch compete, articulate on camera, and always positive in attitude, PIstorius could likely enhance most any brand he’s associated with. Great subject for an inspirational film or motivational speaking tour. Or put Oscar in a Gillette ad, talking about his “other” blades.

Lolo Jones.  America’s most popular Olympian without a medal, Lolo’s dramatic near misses on the track, combined with her beauty and nakedly honest personality, make her a compelling marketing force. Good choice for any glamour product, fashion campaign, or in a reality series called “Lolo’s Biggest Hurdle,” that follows her quest to lose her virginity. She and Tim Tebow should hook up in a soft drink ad, sharing a Coke and at least a smile.

Kerri Walsh & Misty May-Treanor. Few Olympians got as much prime-time exposure as these highly appealing and mediagenic beach volleyballers. Their gold three-peat solidifies their place as household names, faces and bodies. Good choice for any beach related product, or ad campaign emphasizing teamwork. As a mother of two, Kerri is also well-suited to pitch family cars, educational toys and games, or kids’ food and drink. Misty, a Dancing With The Stars alum, is retiring from competition and planning to start a family, and could help spike sales for Huggies, Gerber or Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.

Serena Williams.  Singles gold made her only the second woman to win a Golden Slam. Already a marketing powerhouse, Serena’s smashing success in London only adds to her brand power.

Aly Raisman.  The gymnast coming home with the most medals, along with parents now famous for their high-scoring “seat gymnastics” routine. Would love to see the Raisman Family in a spot for Post-it Notes, with mom yelling to Aly, “Stick it! Stick it!”

U.S Men’s Basketball Team. Gold in London was inevitable, and the  prime time coverage was negligible. But Kobe Bryant solidified his standing as the NBA’s leading international ambassador, Kevin Durant served global notice as the game’s hottest young star, LeBron James further grew his brand worldwide, and James Harden further grew his beard.


U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.  All medaled up with no place to go. Provided America with some of the Games’ most thrilling moments in their quest for gold, and even though there’s no longer a pro league to show off their talents, they still offer marketers some solid pitchwomen: the glamorous and outspoken Hope Solo; athletic and articulate Abby Wambach; attractive rising star Alex Morgan; and openly gay Megan Rapinoe.



Allyson Felix.  First U.S. woman to win three track & field golds in one Olympics since FloJo. Very easy on the eyes, too. Aspires to be a teacher, which could qualify her for deals with any maker of educational products.


David Boudia.  Won dramatic prime-time gold in 10m platform diving, and starred in one of the Games’ coolest ads: diving off the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, for Visa. Good bod for underwear or fashion campaigns, or considering that he was once afraid of heights, any ad that deals with overcoming your fears.   


Ashton Eaton.  Decathlon gold medalist is good looking, well-chiseled and comfortable on camera, and now wears the title of World’s Greatest Athlete. But his event lacks the cachet it had during the days of Bruce Jenner and Dan & Dave, making endorsements harder to come by. Still, Eaton is a worthy endorser for any product offering strength, toughness and versatility—from Dodge Trucks to Black & Decker power tools to Swiss Army knives.

Allison Schmitt.  Only 22, medaled in all five of her swimming events, and is Michael Phelps’ training pal. Team them up in an AT&T ad—with her in the pool and retired Michael coaching her by phone from the comfort of his living room sofa.

Danell Leyva.  Only U.S. male gymnast to land a medal, and the only one to appear nude in ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue. Team him up in a Coke ad with his highly excitable dad/coach, who jumps for joy after his son successfully opens a can.

Katie Ledecky.  15-year-old won gold in the 800m freestyle, beginning what could be a long and successful Olympic career. If you’re thinking long-term deal, think Ledecky.

Natalie Coughlin.  Relay medal ties her for most decorated U.S. female Olympian. Appearance on Dancing With The Stars—and in nothing but body paint for Sports Illustrated—adds to her popularity. Comfortable and charismatic on camera, Coughlin could have a healthy future in broadcasting.

Sanya Richards-Ross.  She has four Olympic gold medals, hubby Aaron has two Super Bowl rings. Good pair for a “can you top this” ad for any fast food burger franchise. Or jewelry polish.

Nathan Adrian.  The appealing Adrian won over many new fans—especially female—with his gold medal swimming, smile, personality and 6’7” bod. At 23, he should be a major factor in Rio—in the pool and in marketing, particularly for products that play on his sex appeal.


Cullen Jones. Only the second African-American swimmer in U.S. history to have won gold, Jones is a good-looking and articulate barrier-breaker. Solid future as a model, actor, motivational speaker and role model for young African-American swimmers with Olympian ambitions.

Manteo Mitchell.  Broke a fibula halfway through his 4x400m relay leg, but still finished the race. Of possible interest to any pain relief medication.


Jonathan Horton.  No gymnastics medal for Jonathan , but still a worthy choice for a certain chocolate drink company, in an ad titled “Horton Hears a Yoo-Hoo.”


Claressa Shields.  High-schooler won America’s first and only gold in women’s boxing. Too bad prime-time viewers didn’t got to see it. But Claressa could be a knock-out pitchwoman for Blue Shield in her home state of Michigan.


Rebecca Soni.  If Sony doesn’t sign her, they’re missing a golden opportunity.


Trey Hardee.  Hardee’s Restaurant, get on this now.

Jenn Suhr.  Overcame Celiac disease to win pole vault gold. Inspiring story for any gluten-free product marketer.


Bryshon Nellum.  Overcame being shot three times in the legs to win 4x400m relay silver. Inspiring story for a book, TV movie or motivational speaking tour.


Im Dong-Hyun.  Overcame legal blindness to win a medal in archery.  Inspiring story for any ad campaign whose message is “never give up, no matter what the odds.”


Ariel Hsing.  Young table tennis phenom lists “Uncles” Warren Buffet and Bill Gates as close friends. Good subject for a LinkedIn ad on the importance of professional networking.

Kim Rhode.  Shooter is the first American to medal in five consecutive Olympics. Good choice for Remington or the NRA.


Gymnastics Judges.  Good choice for any manufacturer of calculators.


Rafalca.  The Romneys’ dressage horse is a good subject for an Obama campaign ad knocking Mitt’s upper class twittiness.

Destinee Hooker.  Great name for Trojan.


Dong Dong.  See Destinee Hooker.




Jordan Wieber.  Gymnast came to London as the favorite, but left in frustration. But her tears and disappointment after not qualifying for the all-around event could land her a Kleenex deal, or a Southwest Airlines “Wanna get away?” ad.


McKayla Maroney.  A shoo-in for gold in the vault, until she fell on her butt in her second try. And her very popular “McKayla is not impressed” Internet meme will not sit well with marketers looking for an enthusiastic pitchwoman.


Tyler Clary.  Publicly dissed Michael Phelps’ work ethic. Not the kind of move that earns favorable strokes from consumers or marketers.


U.S. Women’s Basketball Team.  Won gold for the fifth consecutive Olympics—but no one in America noticed.


U.S. Men’s Boxers.  No medals means no marketing punch at all.


Justin Gatlin.  Overcame a four-year doping ban to medal in London. But still a little too iffy for marketers.


Phil Dalhausser & Todd Rogers.  Defending beach volleyball gold medalists were eliminated early, missing out on the only prime time exposure they’ll get until 2016.


Nick Delpopolo.  New Jersey Judoka was expelled from the Games after testing positive for THC. Possible shot with any munchie food company, or as a cast member on the next season of Jersey Shore.


Bryan Clay.  Gold-winning decathlete from 2008 was featured prominently in 2012 Games marketing, but failed to qualify for London. Good example of why banking on Olympic athletes can be risky.


Henrik Rummel.  Bronze-winning U.S. rower appeared visibly aroused through his tight shorts on the medal stand. Perhaps the sport’s governing body could promote rowing in tight shorts as a natural alternative to Viagra.


Voula Papachristou & Michel Morganella.  The first athletes to be banned from the Olympics for offensive tweets. Of possible interest to any online editing service.

BMX Cyclists.  Thrilling event, but the huge helmets and body padding render the participants totally unrecognizable.


Marlen Esparza.  U.S. boxer got more TV time in McDonald’s ads than in the ring.

Mariel Zagunis.  Attractive, owns two gold medals and carried the U.S. flag in the opening ceremony, but there’s not much point in using a fencer in advertising—unless it’s for Band-Aid.

Badminton Players.  In the London Games’ biggest scandal, eight Asian badminton players were expelled for losing games on purpose. But millions of Americans, used to watching NBA teams tank, couldn’t care less.


Nick Symmonds.  Looks like Brad Pitt. Ran like Angelina Jolie.


Lu Xiang.  After pulling out of the finals in Beijing in 2008, China’s iconic hurdler crashed out in the finals in London. The collective agony of 1.3 billion fans would make a fine Maalox moment.



Bob Dorfman is Creative Director at San Francisco ad agency Baker Street Advertising, and a nationally recognized sports marketing expert whose insightful and pithy comments have been featured in such national media as ESPN, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, NPR, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Since 1989, he has been writing annual Sports Marketers’ Scouting Reports on the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and Summer and Winter Olympics. Dorfman also once starred as a hockey player in a Japanese TV commercial.

Contact Bob Dorfman at 415-659-3929 or 415-308-9606.