Phelps Secures Legacy, In And Out Of The Pool
By Tim Richardson
Michael Phelps did it. He is now the most decorated Olympian in the history of the games -- the only athlete to win 19 Olympic medals. Phelps made history July 31 as he anchored the United States to a gold medal in the 4x200 freestyle relay, cementing his standing as the greatest swimmer of all time.
Dan Hicks, who is calling the meets for NBC, captured the magnitude of the moment immediately following the race.
"Nineteen is now the new Olympic standard," he said. "Larisa Latynina, the Soviet gymnast, steps aside for the greatest ever."
Latynina, a Soviet-era gymnast, held the record for almost five decades as she won nine gold, five silver and four bronze medals from 1956-64. During four Olympic Games, Phelps has amassed 15 gold (six more than any other Olympian), two silver and two bronze medals. With several more events to go, he could add to that total.
Phelps became a worldwide sensation during the 2008 Games in Beijing when he became the first Olympian ever to win eight gold medals at one Olympic Games. As Phelps captured glory in the pool, he also positioned himself to become a global pitch man.
Although Phelps is not listed among Forbes' top 20 highest-paid Olympians, it is estimated that the Baltimore native earned between $5 million and $7 million last year through endorsement deals with nearly a dozen sponsors, including Subway, Visa and Omega.
Visa is currently running an ad campaign featuring Phelps in more than 40 countries, while Procter & Gamble is implementing a marketing campaign around Phelps in more than 200 countries. The swimmer entered into a deal last year with Procter & Gamble to be the global face of the company's Head & Shoulders shampoo. Phelps' income from endorsement deals is estimated at $40 million.
Following the Olympics in Beijing, Phelps' agent, Peter Carlisle, said his client might earn as much as $100 million as an endorser during his lifetime.
Carlisle told Bloomberg News last month that he didn't back down from that statement, "so long as [Phelps] continues to want to be out there and work in the way that he has."
For Olympians, fame and lucrative endorsements deals are harder to attain, and maintain, because the games take place only every four years. But Phelps is no ordinary Olympian.
The Celebrity DBI is an independent index for brand marketers and agencies, which determines a celebrity's ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchase intent. Created by the entertainment practice of The Marketing Arm, a leading entertainment marketing and promotion agency, the Celebrity DBI includes more than 2,800 celebrities and is powered by a 4.5 million-member domestic consumer research panel.
According to the Celebrity DBI, 89 percent of the public knew who Phelps was before the current Olympics, and his influence rating sits as 281 out of the 2,800 celebrities in that database. Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes said that put Phelps in the company of global sports icons Michael Jordan and Arnold Palmer, who make roughly $100 million combined annually from their sponsorship deals.
Carlisle told the SportsBusiness Journal that Phelps would "need to continue signing endorsements, promoting his foundation, traveling to international markets and developing new lines of business like the Michael Phelps Skills Center, a remote training system being piloted in
He also said Phelps had already signed several renewals and one new deal, which will be announced after the Olympics.
According to The Nielsen Company, more than 42 million Americans tuned into NBC's coverage of the Olympics during the hour in which the network carried Phelps' record-breaking feat. Even in today's world of text alerts and Twitter, where Phelps' achievement had been reported hours earlier, viewers still wanted to watch Phelps achieve his moment of greatness.
Posted Aug. 2, 2012