The 2014 Winter Olympics Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report

Though the Sochi star power was so-so, the US medal haul disappointing and the time change kept live events out of prime time, the Games prevailed over the controversies, some new stars emerged and NBC’s ratings proved solid.

But now that these Winter Games are over, and the majority of Americans return to ignoring skiers, skaters and curlers 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:


Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin. The Sochi Olympian with the biggest upside, Shiffrin was golden in the slalom–and on camera. At just 18 years old, immensely talented, pleasantly attractive and surprisingly poised, she’s the closest thing to a Winter Olympics “It Girl” to come out of Sochi, and could be a medals and marketing force for the next two or three Winter Games. The youngest American to win gold in Sochi, Shiffrin could sell beauty, fashion or any health-related product, and if Lindsey Vonn returns to compete in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, their rivalry could make for a fun McDonald’s ad, as they “ski-off” for a box of McNuggets. Shiffrin’s gold medal—and future promise—is likely worth $1M a year in new marketing opportunities. Call now, bring a big checkbook, and plan on a five- to ten-year deal.


Ted Ligety
Ted Ligety. Ligety saw heavy time in Olympic ads for VISA, Citi, P&G and Kellogg’s, and fared well in all. And as the only US male to win alpine gold, in Sochi, he takes over for a likely-to-retire Bode Miller as the poster boy of men’s alpine skiing. At 29, Ligety could still be a factor in Pyeongchang, and a viable endorser through 2018. As founder of his own ski accessories company, Shred Optics, Ligety could work well pitching business products and services. And he really deserves his own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor: Ligety Split.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Charlie White & Meryl Davis. Only four Americans are leaving Sochi with a pair of medals; ice dance gold medalists White & Davis are two of them. With their Disney action figure looks, grace on ice and charm on camera, they make a lovely product-pitching pair, and their solid resume already includes P&G, Kellogg’s, AT&T and Ralph Lauren. White & Davis are the perfect couple to star on the next season of Dancing With The Stars, play themselves in a live-action Disney skating flick, and turn their ice dancing “twizzles” into an ad for Twizzlers.
Shaun White
Shaun White. The Flying Tomato turned into ketchup after falling out of the medals in halfpipe, and he didn’t win any friends with his last-minute withdrawal from the slopestyle event. And while some critics say White has gotten too corporate for his sport, no one comes close to his broad demographic appeal, marketing power and worldwide familiarity. His poor performance in Sochi may not win him any new ad deals, but it’s unlikely he’ll lose any of his $13M in annual endorsement income. And should he choose to compete in Pyeongchang, his comeback attempt could the most marketable story of the 2018 Games.
Sage Kotsenberg
Sage Kotsenberg. Sage took gold in slopestyle, and man, does he have style. He chews gum during his routines, has popularized the term “spoice,” and his pre-race meal of onion rings, chocolate and chips should have junk food companies making a beeline for his door. With his Jeff Spicoli-style appeal, Kotsenberg could pitch anything from Axe deodorant to Domino’s pizza, Bubble Yum to Beats by Dre. And thanks to the X Games and Dew Tour, Kotsenberg should stay top of mind with the extreme sports demographic until the 2018 Games, where Sage will once again be the rage.
Julia Mancuso. The most decorated female alpine skier in US Olympic history, Mancuso was overshadowed by Vonn in Vancouver and by Shiffrin in Sochi. But Mancuso—with talent, charisma, staying power and ESPN Body Issue-quality looks—is no marketing slouch. Put her in her trademark tiara, hanging out with the Burger King, eating Green Giant vegetables in an ad titled “Princess and the Peas,” or sparking the return of Imperial Margarine’s famous “crown” campaign. Or team her up with Vonn & Shiffrin, racing for the last can of Coke or last Chicken McNugget.


T.J . Oshie
T.J . Oshie. America’s favorite hockey player after Team USA’s OT triumph against Russia. But the magic dissipated when his squad failed to medal. But now that’s he’s a household name and face, expect more off-the-ice ops for Oshie.
Jamie Anderson
Jamie Anderson. One of eight kids, the hippie-esque Anderson took gold in women’s slopestyle, calming herself the night before with candles, incense, meditation and yoga. She’s also been known to hug a tree before every event. A good choice for any product with an “all-natural” message.
Bode Miller. Winning bronze in the Super-G, and being driven to tears in an interview following, turned the divisive Miller into a sympathetic character. And now he can add the title “Oldest Olympic Medalist in Alpine Skiing History” to his resume, which could lead to deals with Ben Gay, Advil or Metamucil. His lovely wife Morgan—who garnered heavy camera time in Sochi—adds to the pair’s model-esque appeal. At 36, Miller’s Olympic days are likely over, but a try for the Pyeongchang Games at age 40 would make a fascinating ad story.
Kaitlyn Farrington. Cowgirl Farrington’s parents sold off their livestock to finance her Olympic dreams, and it paid off with her gold in snowboard halfpipe. And qualifies her for a Got Milk or American Beef Council campaign.
Andrew Weibrecht. Alpine skier came from nowhere to medal in Vancouver, then did it again in Sochi. Possible choice for any product that comes through when it matters most.
Lauryn Williams. Williams now has a Winter Games silver medal to go with her Summer Games gold. Worthwhile choice for any product that’s big on versatility.
Lolo Jones
Lolo Jones. Lolo now has a Winter Games disappointment to go with her Summer Games disappointment. But she remains one of the most recognizable, attractive and interesting female athletes in any sport, and a worthwhile choice for any beauty or fashion product. Or, given her avowed sex life plans until marriage, Virgin Airlines.
Joss Christensen, Nick Goepper, Gus Kenworthy. Swept the medals in skiing slopestyle, and will land next on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes boxes. The threesome should market themselves as The Three Sochigos and pitch anything from fast food to airlines to mobile phones. And Kenworthy’s adoption of five Sochi stray dogs could land him a deal with Purina.
David Wise. The antithesis of the typical extreme athlete, Wise is married, a father and serves as a youth pastor. A wise choice for any conservative marketer looking to sell family values to the extreme sports demographic.
J.R. Celski. Apolo Ohno has proven that even a Winter Olympian in an obscure sport can be marketable, if you’ve got enough medals, looks and charisma. Unfortunately, Celski is lacking in all three. But his bloody crash from a few years ago, show often during the Sochi broadcasts, could make for an interesting Band Aid spot.
Erin Hamlin. The first American to ever medal in singles luge. Of possible interest to any product that goes well with ice.
Iouri Podladtchikov. The upset gold medal winner in snowboard halfpipe is nicknamed iPod, and should be paid royalties by Apple every time it’s mentioned.
Noelle Pikus-Pace. Appealing silver medalist in skeleton was one of only three moms on the US team. Good choice for any family-oriented product, Pace Picante sauce, or starring in a new reality series: “The Real Housewives of Winter Sports.”
Johnny Weir & Tara Lipinski. The most popular figure skating pair in Sochi—and they weren’t even on the ice. As Bob Costas suggested, they ought to have their own show. Perhaps something like “Fashion Police” meets “Wide World of Sports.”
Hannah Kearney. Expected to repeat as gold medalist in moguls, only earned bronze, and was clearly disappointed. But the intense knee-jarring action of her sport could qualify her for a deal with any maker of joint cream.
Sarah Hendrickson. A medal favorite in the inaugural women’s ski jump event, Hendrickson fell short. But she’s only 19, and could help your product fly high during the 2018 Games.
Maddie Bowman. Gold medalist in ski halfpipe sported a nose ring and a cold sore that could earn her a Blistex deal.
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. Norwegian biathlete became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time. Of possible interest to any maker of metal polish.
Jason Brown. No figure skating medal for the extremely likeable Brown, but at 19 years old he’s the ponytail to watch in 2018. Especially if you’re trying to sell shampoo.
Yuna Kim. Unfavorable Russian judging may have cost the South Korean her 2nd consecutive figure skating gold. But with the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, redemption is only four years away.
Adelina Sotnikova. Favorable Russian judging may have helped the Russian land her surprise figure skating gold. But with the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, revenge is only four years away.
Steven Holcomb. Overcame a degenerative eye disease—and a suicide attempt—to medal in both 2-man and 4-man bobsled. Good choice for an inspirational biopic, speaking tour, or ad campaign with a “never give up” message.
Olga Graf. Bronze-winning Russian speedskater unzipped her suit after her race, forgetting she was wearing nothing underneath. Good choice for Victoria’s Secret.
Bob Costas
Bob Costas. Of possible interest to any pinkeye medication, or–if his red eyes were actually due to hanging out with the Jamaican Bobsled Team–any munchie product.
Matt Lauer & Meredith Viera. As super subs for Costas, they deserve Subway sandwiches named after them.
Dutch Speedskaters. With 23 medals among them, a worthy choice for a “Got Gouda?” ad.


US Speedskaters. With zero medals among them, a worthy choice for a “Wanna get away?” ad from Southwest Airlines.
Kate Hansen. Luger Hansen wins the gold medal for attention getting, thanks to her pre-race dance video and her “cry wolf” viral video hoax with Jimmy Kimmel. Possible future as a TMZ correspondent.
Johnny Quinn. Bobsledder wins the silver for attention getting, after smashing through the jammed bathroom door in his Sochi housing unit. Of possible interest to Home Depot or Black & Decker.
Shani Davis. See often in McDonald’s ads, biting onto a gold medal and into a Chicken McNugget. But after his disappointing Sochi performance, it’ll be strictly McNuggets.
Gracie Gold. Could’ve been America’s new Ice Queen, but only managed a silver in the team skate. Try again in 2018.
Ashley Wagner. See Gracie Gold.
Kelly Clark. Too easily confused with Kelly Clarkson the singer.
John Daly. Too easily confused with the golfer.
Bill Demong. The Nordic combined gold medalist in Vancouver got lots of prime time exposure in the Sochi telecasts via his VISA ads. Unfortunately, no one in America knows—or cares—what Nordic combined is.
Lindsay Jacobellis. After hotdogging her way out of a gold medal in Torino in 2006, snowboarder Jacobellis sought redemption–but crashed out in Vancouver in 2010 and again in Sochi in 2014. Of possible interest to Advil or Nuprin.
Jeremy Abbott. Gave the middle finger to everyone who called him a choke—after choking in both the team skating and men’s singles skating competitions. Of possible use in a PSA on the Heimlich maneuver.
Katie Uhlaender. Missed a skeleton medal by .04 second. Of possible interest to any precision timepiece maker.

Hannah Teter. Teter tottered.


Bob Dorfman is Creative Director at San Francisco’s Baker Street Advertising, and a nationally recognized sports marketing expert whose insightful and pithy punditry has been featured on ESPN, Fox, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, CNBC and NPR, and in Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Sporting News, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other major media. Since 1989, he has been writing his Sports Marketers’ Scouting Reports on the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and the Summer and Winter Olympics.

To contact Bob: 415-659-3929 (office)
415-308-9606 (mobile)