Are there millions of dollars in endorsements to grab for those Olympians who walked out of these Winter Olympic Games with a medal or two? How many Olympic athletes will end up laughing all the way into the bank? One thing is certain. Young age, notoriously good looks, wonderful smiles and a competent manager will add to the final dollar tally.
The future financial rewards for the dancing Apolo Ohno, the Flying Tomato Shaun White and a knockout Lindsey Vonn are no doubt secured. In general, snowboarders and alpine skiers have the biggest chance to win additional lucrative endorsement deals. For athletes in some other disciplines, there is still a long way to go before they will cash in.
Shaun White might just break all records for the Winter Olympians in endorsements. Already in 2008, he earned $9 million and in 2009 $8 million. Last year, alpine skier Lindsey Vonn earned $3 million, alpine skier Ted Liggety $2million, speed skater Apollo Ohno $1.5 million and alpine skier Bode Miller $1.3 million. Snowboarders Gretchen Bleiler, Lindsey Jacobellis and Hannah Teter earned in 2009 $1 million each.
Among foreign athletes, South Korean figure skater Yu-Na Kim earned $8 million in 2009 and alpine skier Maria Riesch $1 million. On the other hand, in many foreign countries Olympic athletes are not funded at all and are hardly going by or even living below poverty line, all in an attempt to reach Olympic glory. However, in China, Germany and Russia, athletes are fully sponsored year round; not so in Canada.
Even though companies are spending annually $1 billion in endorsements, for most Olympians the endorsement deals will prove elusive. In spite of the enormous world media coverage of Olympic stars and their visibility that lasted for quite a few weeks also during these Olympic Games, most athletes, even those with medals under their sleeves, will soon be forgotten.
The fact remains that Olympic stars are not always as cashable as other sports megastars. After the Olympics closing ceremony, the fans forget all about the Games until the next come around. On top of it, the Winter Olympic Games attract smaller television audience. Even the thrills of higher speeds, longer jumps, steeper and steeper slopes are not enough to hold a grip on fans. Without significant long-term active fan base the endorsements are not possible.
It is easier for athletes competing in National Leagues to end up with considerable endorsements as opposed to those competing only at Olympic Games. The endorsement deals for these athletes are significantly larger than the deals for Olympians.
Before 1970, the Olympic Games were strictly amateurish. Professional athletes were not allowed to compete. In 1971, the International Olympic Committee permitted for the first time payments to athletes. However, in the United States it was not until 1978 when Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act was adopted that athletes could accept sponsorship, financial rewards and endorsements.
If Olympians want to succeed, they are faced with 8 hours a day of training. Under these circumstances, financial sponsorship and endorsement deals are essential and necessary. In absence of lucrative endorsement deals and state sponsorship, the financial burden remains too often with the athletes and their families.
Then again, when these athletes win the Olympic medals, they quickly become our pride and joy. Moreover, we never fail to demand from them impossible believing that they owe us extraordinary efforts that just might secure power, dominance and excellence of our Nation on the world stage.