Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White have made it look so easy.
As champions on the snow, the athletes managed to translate their Olympic successes into lucrative deals that have, no doubt, swelled their bank accounts. Vonn, for instance, has long-standing endorsements with Red Bull and Under Armour. And White has been a powerful longtime parter for Burton, in addition to launching his own business endeavors, such as the Air + Style festival.
But for the young superstars emerging out of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, those big post-Olympic paychecks aren’t guaranteed.
Problem No. 1: Many of the companies and brands that sponsored the games have already expended their Olympic budgets and are now focused on refilling their coffers for 2022, according to Ania Sponaski, senior director of global sponsorship consulting with the New York-based agency GMR Marketing.
And for the non-Olympic sponsors, she explained, “They don’t have the ability to leverage all the assets from the games, like the official photos and videos.” So the question for many brands is: Do any of the athletes offer enough value outside the rink or off the slopes to justify the spend?
Of all the stars of the 2018 games, snowboarder Chloe Kim appears to have the best chance of extending her fame. Like White and Vonn, the 17-year-old phenom has that perfect combination of talent and personality that make her both a relatable and inspirational figure. And her family’s unique backstory as immigrants adds an interesting contextual layer.
As proof of her marketability, look no further than Kim’s box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, which reportedly sold out in just 7 hours (granted, it was released in limited quantities), but her social media following has also ballooned since the games — she now has 335,000 followers on Twitter and 744,000 on Instagram. Already, she is a Nike-sponsored athlete, but it’s a safe bet that her profile will only grow from here.
Sponaski noted that brands might also look to work with athletes who connect with a social message, such as openly gay skier Gus Kenworthy or members of the U.S. women’s hockey team, who could help highlight issues of equality in sports and serve as role models for young people. “It’s about creating an authentic connection,” she said. “We’ve found that athletes who portray a brand’s attributes make the best partners.”
Her advice to future athletes is to develop their identity through social media and show companies that they have the ability to speak well and be a strong presence. “They can leverage their success at the games by focusing on ways to build their own brands,” said Sponaski.
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