Sure, He's Fast. But Can Usain Bolt Sell?
And now this commercial break:
Bob Dorfman, a San Francisco ad man and sports nut, has found a great way to combine work and play. After watching all of the major sporting events (your Super Bowls and World Series, your Olympics and NBA Championships, etc.), Bob writes up the Sports Marketers' Scouting Report. The report is Bob's witty and accessible take on the endorsement potential of the athletes and personalities who've just paraded across our screens for a few days or weeks.
Bob's work is aimed at advertisers, of course, but it's a fun read for civilians, too. Mostly, it offers a little peak into how advertisers think -- and what they think they can sell to us.
Anyway, Bob sent me a copy of his latest work handicapping the Olympics last night. Here's how the marketing judge scored it (all comments below are Dorfman's):
--Michael Phelps If anyone can transcend the limited shelf life of Olympians, it's Phelps. His performance in Beijing was legendary, he's now a household name and face on a global scale, he didn't melt under intense media scrutiny, his kid-next-door image came across as genuine and likeable, and he's almost certain to be a force in the 2012 London Games. Look for him next on Kellogg's cereal boxes, every talk show and awards show, congratulatory ads, commemorative merchandise, a swimming tour, maybe even going to Disneyland. It wouldn't be surprising to see Phelps boost his earnings in endorsements, merchandise deals, appearance fees and the like to as much as $50 million in the next year. His body is perfect for grooming products, or fashion brands, his ears belong in an iPod campaign or Q-Tip demo, and his prodigious appetite qualifies him for McDonald's -- ideally sinking his teeth into a new Phelps Phish sandwich. Add his surprisingly entertaining mom Debbie to the picture, and you've got the perfect pair to bring new life to Campbell's Chunky Soup campaign. But as big as Phelps has become, he still won't be able to take swimming out of the realm of a once-every-four-years sport. So how can Michael stay in the public eye until 2012? There's always "Dancing With the Stars," "Survivor" (in a location with lots of swimming challenges), a "Life With Mike" reality show, or maybe even "Aquaman, The Movie." But icons don't come cheap. If you really want Phelps, you'd better be thinking globally, long term (at least a four-year deal), and in the seven- or even eight-figure range.
--Usain Bolt Bolt came out of nowhere -- with astonishing speed -- to nearly steal the Games from Michael Phelps. The Terrell Owens of track, his showmanship is a refreshing change from the stiff, toe-the-line intensity of other Olympic athletes. And that Jamaican accent is always fun to hear. Bolt's performance has already earned him a major endorsement offer from British cable company Virgin Media, and he certainly qualifies to pitch any product or service built for speed -- from Porsche to fast food to fast-actin' Tinactin.
--Shawn Johnson She didn't win the all-around gold, but Johnson has a slight edge over teammate Nastia Liukin in marketability, largely due to her all-American looks and Mary Lou Retton-esque appeal. Only 16, the fresh-faced Iowan will likely be competing again in London in 2012, and is a solid choice for any marketer to young women, particularly in categories like cosmetics, skin and hair care, fashion, or anything related to health & fitness. Or how about Johnson and Liukin together -- flipping, vaulting and tumbling over each other to be first into a sale at Target?
--Nastia Liukin Liukin won the most important gold medal (the all-around championship), is more lithe and graceful than Johnson, has a dad/coach who also won Olympic gold, and carries a solid endorsement résumé. Like Johnson, she should be a major factor in the 2012 Games, and appeals to the same young female demographic. Footage of her texting her mom after she won gold would make a compelling AT&T spot, or feature her alongside her dad Valeri, sharing a bottle of Advil to ease their assorted aches and pains.
--Dara Torres At 41, the oldest swimmer to medal in Olympics history. An inspirational and compelling choice for any advertiser with a "You're never too old to be great" message. And as a mom, Torres is also well-suited to pitch family cars, educational toys and games, or kids' food and drink. The extremely talkative Torres might also work well for T-Mobile, trying to talk her way into Charles Barkley's Fave 5.
--Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor Gold-medal beach volleyballers got loads of prime time exposure, and are now household names, faces and bodies. Along with pitching any beach-related product, their plans to start families make them good choices to spike sales for Huggies, Gerber or Johnson's baby shampoo.
--Natalie Coughlin The first U.S. female swimmer to win six medals in a single Olympics, Coughlin's spectacular smile and attractive face make her ideal for any dental care product or cosmetic -- waterproof, of course.
--Ryan Lochte Lost out to buddy Phelps in the medals department, but wins in the looks department. Possesses an easy-going, surfer-dude appeal, and his resemblance to a young Sean Penn can't hurt. Ryan's right on for Abercrombie & Fitch, Hanes underwear, Axe deodorant, or any other body-revealing campaign.
--Bryan Clay Could this gold medal winning decathlete be the next Bruce Jenner? He's good looking, well-chiseled and comfortable on camera, but lacks the buzz of a Phelps or Bolt -- partly because the decathlon is no longer the marquee event it once was. Yet Clay is worthy endorser for any product offering strength, toughness and versatility -- from Dodge Trucks to Black & Decker power tools. And don't be surprised to see Clay on a Wheaties box near you. Clay's Hawaiian heritage also qualifies him for Mauna Loa macadamia nuts, Hawaiian Airlines or fruit juicy Hawaiian Punch.
--Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers Beach volleyball gold medalists benefited from heavy prime time exposure -- particularly the 6'9" bald-headed Dalhausser, whose imposing presence could earn him a villain role in the next James Bond film.
--Jason Lezak His anchor leg in the 4x100 free relay saved Michael Phelps a million bucks, and could be the most watched highlight from the Beijing Games. Put him in a Geico ad, showing Phelps how to save big on his car insurance.
--Cullen Jones Only the second African-American swimmer from the U.S. to win a gold medal, Jones is good-looking, articulate and very appealing in the "Thanks, Mom" TV spot for Johnson's baby shampoo. Cool name, too. Another medal or two in 2012 would help his marketing fortunes, but Jones has a solid future as a model, actor, motivational speaker and role model for young African-American swimmers with Olympian ambitions.
--Aaron Peirsol Only if you can't afford Phelps dollars.
--Ian Crocker See Aaron Peirsol.
--Jennie Finch The most famous member of the U.S. women's softball team, Finch's résumé includes making People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list, being voted "World's Sexiest Athlete" in an ESPN.com poll, and winning a gold medal in Athens. But Beijing's silver was a stunning disappointment, and her sport has been dropped from the Olympics roster. Still, Finch has fared well in broadcasting, and has real star power that could move merchandise for MAC cosmetics, her own fashion line, or any product that shows off her beautiful blonde locks.
--Jonathan Horton The only U.S. men's gymnast to win an individual medal. Put him in an ad with cheering fans and title it "Horton Hears A Whoo-Hoo."
--Raj Bhavsar Made the U.S. gymnastics team as a sub when Paul Hamm withdrew due to injury. Of possible interest to Subway.
--Mariel Zagunis Owns two gold medals, but there's not much point in using a fencer in advertising.
--Rebecca Soni Great name for any Sony product.
--Lopez Lomong Lost Boy of Sudan overcame great adversity to become the U.S. flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies. Inspiring story for a book, TV movie or motivational speaking tour.
--Henry Cejudo Son of undocumented Mexican immigrants overcame great adversity to win wrestling gold. Inspiring story for a book, TV movie or motivational speaking tour.
--Eric Shanteau Swimmer competed in Beijing just weeks after learning he has testicular cancer. Inspiring story for a book, TV movie or motivational speaking tour.
--Natalie du Toit South African amputee swam in the 10K marathon swimming event, finishing a respectable 16th. Inspiring story for a book, TV movie or motivational speaking tour.
--Stephanie Brown-Trafton Surprise gold medalist in discus could possibly swing a deal with Frisbee. The 6' 4", 225-lb. athlete idolizes Mary Lou Retton; the two would make a visually striking pair in a TV commercial, sharing a Coke and a smile
--The Lopez Family Siblings Steven, Mark and Diana all medaled in taekwondo. Event received minimal TV coverage, but the trio's fluency in Spanish could help kick up sales in the Hispanic market.
--Stephanie Rice Lovely Australian swimmer is rumored to have gotten very tight with Michael Phelps during the Games. Good career move if she harbors any hope of breaking into U.S. advertising.
--Guo Jingjing Lovely Chinese diver is her nation's most famous female athlete. Has made over $3 million in marketing deals in China, and could possibly break through in America as a model, actress or cosmetics spokesperson. Should consider dating Michael Phelps to up her visibility.
--Jenn Stuczynski Took up pole vaulting just four years ago, and still won silver in Beijing. Name could be a challenge for marketers, though.
--Bela Karolyi Not always sure what he's saying, but his passion is undeniable. Put any product in his hand and let him rant and rave over it for 30 seconds.
--Amanda Beard Didn't come close to a medal, but as long as she keeps up the nude posing, who cares. Should have a fruitful career in broadcasting, modeling, and/or softcore films.
--Debbie Phelps Michael's mom got loads of camera time, was always fun to watch, and has an inspirational story to tell. Already helping Johnson & Johnson and Chico's boost sales, and could do good things for any product with a "Mom knows best" ad message.
--U.S. Men's Basketball Team Headed for certain gold, and doing everything right along the way. LeBron James continues on his path to world domination, while Kobe Bryant -- a polarizing figure at home -- may have found that his most receptive marketing demographic is overseas.
--U.S. Women's Soccer Team Won gold without any star power whatsoever. Will need a strong showing in the World Cup and 2012 Olympics to make an impression with consumers.
--U.S. Women's Basketball Team Should win gold for the fourth consecutive Olympics -- but will anyone in America notice?
--U.S. BMX Cycling Team Can't tell them apart with all the helmets and body padding, but they'd make a highly entertaining Coke commercial, racing for the last bottle.
--Chinese Women Gymnasts A fun bunch for any cosmetics ad talking to women who lie about their age.
--Gymnastics Judges Good choice for any manufacturer of calculators.
--Tyson Gay America's biggest disappointment of the Games, Gay pulled a hammy in the trials and missed qualifying for the 200 meters, didn't qualify for the 100 meter final in Beijing, then was part of a botched baton pass in the 4x100 relay. Good choice for a Southwest Airlines "Wanna get away?" spot.
--Jeremy Wariner Tough to call a silver medalist a loser, but the Athens 400 meter gold medalist expected to repeat in Beijing, and even had his own 24 Hour Fitness commercial running heavily during the Games. Apparently, Wariner's fitness needs more work.
--Paul and Morgan Hamm Gymnasts featured prominently in pre-Games marketing, but neither made it to Beijing due to injury. Good example of why banking on Olympic athletes can be risky.
--Katie Hoff Expected to challenge for gold in six events, but only earned a silver and two bronzes. The look on her face after each race was probably exhaustion, but it looked more like shock.
--Alicia Sacramone Crucial mistakes cost her team a gymnastics gold medal, yet somehow upped her popularity. Still, do you want to link your product with someone best remembered for falling down on the job?
--Allyson Felix Has the talent, looks and charisma, but is still missing a gold medal.
--Nick Symmonds Looks like Brad Pitt. Ran like Brad Garrett.
--Pau Gasol First he offended Laker fans with his performance in the NBA Finals, then offended the Chinese with his racist Olympic team photo.
--Lolo Jones Heartbreaking hurdle stumble cost her a gold medal. But if any advertiser wants to run a campaign featuring gracious losers, the attractive and appealing Jones should be at the top of the list.
--Matt Emmons For the second straight Olympics, shooter Emmons lost a gold medal with a stunning mistake on his final attempt. In Athens he shot at the wrong target; in Beijing his rifle went off accidentally. Probably not the best choice for a Remington or NRA campaign.
--Lu Xiang China's most popular athlete let down 1.3 billion fans when he pulled out of his hurdles event due to injury. The collective tears that resulted would make a fine Kleenex moment.
--Ara Abrahamian This Swedish wrestler threw down his bronze medal in disgust after disputing a judge's call. Would you dare let him handle your product?
--U.S. Boxing Team No marketing punch whatsoever.
--U.S. 4x100 Relay Teams Dropped batons could qualify them for a Krazy Glue ad.
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