Published in: Forbes.com
Author: Patrick Rishe
On Sunday evening at the 2012 London Olympics, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won Gold in the 100M dash. In doing so, he maintains the moniker "Fastest Man Alive" first earned at the 2008 Beijing Games.
As my Forbes colleague Kurt Badenhausen noted earlier this week, Mr. Bolt earned roughly $20.3 million over the last 12-months from a combination of prize money ($10,000-$60,000 per win), bonuses (as high as $100,000 for world records), appearance fees ($200-350 K per meet) and endorsements (including Puma, Visa, Gatorade, Hublot, Virgin Media, and Nissan Motors). The Puma deal alone is $9 million annually.
Had Mr. Bolt not retained his title as "World’s Fastest Man", and had he not earned a medal in any of the 3 events he is partaking in at these games, he would have seen his earnings potential drop precipitously over the next few years. His current sponsors would have been less likely to retain his services, and if they had, for lesser amounts.
But with today's victory, Mr. Bolt has assured himself a continued steady stream of product endorsements that should extend through the build-up to the 2016 Rio Games. The uniqueness of his feat (only Carl Lewis of U.S.A. had previously defended Olympic Gold in the men's 100 M) only adds to the charm and charisma that Mr. Bolt has demonstrated time and time again both on the track and in his endorsements and public appearances.
It is not uncommon for individual sport athletes to command endorsement earnings in excess of $20 million annually. For example, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Dale Earnhardt Jr each earn in excess of $20 million through endorsements.
But the major difference is that these athletes compete much more frequently, and thus, corporations get greater bang for their marketing buck because those athletes are seen more often. Dale Earnhardt Jr races over 30 weekends a year. Tiger and Phil each play roughly 20 weekends a year. Mr. Bolt doesn't receive the same type of regular or frequent exposure. Furthermore, and certainly in the U.S., golf and auto racing are far more popular than track-and-field.
But there is an "it" factor, a sex appeal if you will, to being labeled "fastest man alive". It resonates with key endorser dimensions like speed, strength, stamina, sleekness, and style. These dimensions are characteristics that companies - depending upon their product - wish to have aligned with their products in the constant game of subliminal messaging used in commercials to entice consumers to buy products.
The scary part is that Mr. Bolt stands to make even more history at the 2012 London Games later this week, which would only further bolster his status as sprinting legend extraordinaire.
Namely, if he wins Gold in the 200 M and 4×100 relay, he will become the only sprinter in history to defend Olympic titles in all 3 events.
If he accomplishes that 3-peat, Mr. Bolt will be sprinting to the bank for years to come with additional endorsement opportunities and appearance fees that will set this speedster up for a lifetime.
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