Thursday, August 14, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – Michael Phelps (The Beijing Games Marketing Machine III

All that glitters is gold when it comes to Michel Phelps and while he may not be buying a stairway to heaven, Michael Phelps future includes millions of dollars in endorsements. Today in part III of our Michael Phelps series SBN will take the third of a week long look at the marketing machine that is Michael Phelps.

Five gold medals and counting. Michael Phelps date with destiny – winning eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games continued unabated Tuesday night (Wednesday morning in Beijing) when America’s Golden Boy won his fourth and fifth gold medals of the Beijing Games. Up next for Phelps Thursday night’s men’s 200IM, Friday he’ll compete in the 100 butterfly and Saturday night he attempts (and all but certainly) become the first Olympian to ever win eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Unless the unthinkable happens the world will be celebrating the Greatest Olympian ever by 10:00 PM New York time Saturday.

Phelps continues to be ratings gold for anyone connected to this marketing machine. Late Wednesday Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc. the sports and entertainment industry leader in accurate measurement and evaluation of sponsorships and promotional programs released a report that looked at the value Phelps sponsors have enjoyed as a result of their association with Phelps thus far at the Beijing Games.

According to research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc. — which specializes in measuring the impact of sponsorships across all forms of media — adidas, Nike, Speedo and Visa logos have combined for six minutes of on-screen time exclusively from apparel worn by Phelps during NBC’s coverage, beginning Saturday night and running through Tuesday night’s double-gold triumph. One way Joyce Julius determines exposure value is by comparing the in-broadcast time the brands garner to the estimated cost of a commercial spot during the telecasts.

A warm-up jacket worn by Phelps during each of his medal ceremonies accounted for all of Nike’s time with the swimmer, as the familiar swoosh has been monitored for three minutes, 33 seconds (3:33), leading to an exposure value of $5.3 million.

Speedo logos on Phelps’ warm-up jacket, swim cap and bodysuit have landed the brand 2:24 of airtime and $3.6 million, while highlights of Phelps’ storied career have also led to TV time for adidas and Visa.

Thus far Phelps has accounted for 72% of Nike’s swimming-related exposure during NBC’s nighttime coverage, as well as 18% of Speedo’s on-screen time and value.

Tuesday night moments after Phelps won the men’s 200 butterfly in world record time Visa released their latest commercial spot honoring Phelps accomplishment. While Phelps and his fellow Americans smashed another world record in Beijing when they won the men’s 4x200 freestyle relay Phelps 11th Olympic Gold medal an hour later, in winning his tenth gold medal Michael Phelps established a new mark for total gold medals won in Olympic Games history by one Olympic athlete, passing among others Americans Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis.

Visa Inc., a Worldwide Olympic Partner for more than two decades, today released a special edition commercial commemorating U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps' historic achievement of winning ten Olympic gold medals, setting the all-time record for most career Olympic gold medals. The spot, entitled "Congratulations Phelps," aired on US host broadcaster NBC during the first commercial break following his win in the men's 200m butterfly final in world record pace at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

"Congratulations Phelps" marks the latest extension of Visa Inc's U.S. advertising campaign "Go World and follows the same creative treatment as previous spots, using striking sepia tones combined with dramatic still photography. The spot closes with an already memorable image of Phelps celebrating the U.S. team's gold medal performance in the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay from earlier in the Beijing Olympic Games competition.

"Michael Phelps truly embodies the spirit of our 'Go World' campaign that celebrates memorable Olympic moments and the extraordinary athletes who achieve them," said Kevin Burke, head of global consumer marketing of Visa Inc. "We congratulate Michael on this momentous achievement and wish him the best as he continues his march towards Olympic history."

The US campaign evokes the emotion and memories of unforgettable moments in Olympic history and features current Olympic and Paralympic athletes and Olympic legends. The integrated campaign includes national television commercials, print and online advertisements, and an online microsite.

That ladies and gentlemen is how a company invests in an athlete and then leverages their sponsorship effectively. All too often companies sponsor an athlete or a team and then decide for some explicable reason to not invest in selling the relationship they have paid for. It makes no sense for a company to invest in an athlete or in an event and then decide to not put further resources behind their investment.

Visa’s relationship with Phelps dates back to before the 2004 Athens Olympics. One of the IOC’s TOP sponsors (there are 12 world wide during the current Olympic quadrennial) have long believed Michael Phelps as a key their Olympic strategy.

"For Visa, our Olympic marketing has always been about aligning with the athletes that represent the Olympic spirit," said Joe Carberry, vice president of corporate relations for Visa USA in an August 2004 interview shortly after the Athens Games. "Michael Phelps embodies that spirit."

More than a year ago on April 9, 2007 Visa announced Phelps would be the face of their Beijing advertising efforts.

In their continual effort to grow the sport of swimming internationally, Michael Phelps and Katie Hoff anchor the "Visa Friendship Lanes Tour" of goodwill, friendship and cultural experience through a series of events that will celebrate the dreams of people of all abilities and cultures. The athletes visit to China , also supported by Speedo, represents their support of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing .

The "Visa Friendship Lanes Tour," will promote Special Olympics and take place April 9th - 13th with events scheduled in both Beijing and Shanghai including a swimming clinic with Special Olympics athletes, a Speedo swimming clinic with Chinese Junior swimmers, ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Special Olympics World Summer Games, and a mentoring session with several Team Visa athletes who are training to make the Chinese Olympic Team in 2008.

"The 'Visa Friendship Lanes Tour' provides these athletes with the ability to connect with another culture while at the same time promote their sport in a way that has never been done before," said Mr. Peter Carlisle, Octagon Managing Director of Olympics & Action Sports. "Between the Special Olympics World Games and the Beijing Olympics, it's an exciting time for China and our athletes want to be a true part of the entire cultural experience."

"Visa's Olympic marketing programs are designed to show the public the journey that our Olympic athletes and hopefuls follow to reach their goals and dreams. We're very proud of our long partnership we have with Michael and Katie," said Mr. Michael Lynch, Senior Vice President of Partnership Marketing, Visa USA . "With the 'Visa Friendship Lanes Tour', we see an opportunity to help these great athletes inspire others and hopefully make a positive impact on the global Olympic Movement."

In an effort to further provide people of all abilities the opportunity to chase their dreams, Phelps and Hoff, joined by fellow Olympians Ryan Lochte and Megan Jendrick (formerly Quann), will donate $8,808.00 (USD) to Special Olympics China and the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games. ( US VERSION ONLY: The athletes' contribution reflects the symbolic date to the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games.)

"When world renowned athletes like Michael, Katie, Ryan, and Megan stand side by side with our Special Olympics athletes they bring recognition, respect, understanding and most important, acceptance among the general public," said Mr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. "Their participation in the events this week in Beijing and Shanghai especially two special school visits and Special Olympics China swimming clinic encourage a call to action to society to support the more than 2.2 million Special Olympics athletes around the world."

"We are grateful to the U.S. Olympic swimmers for their generous support of Special Olympics China and the global movement--especially, with the 2007 World Summer Games only six months away," said Mr. Zhang Tan Lian, Vice National Chairman, Special Olympics China. "We thank these Champions for not only making a donation to our program but also for sharing their talents with Special Olympics China athletes in and out of the pool."

As part of the ongoing partnership with its athletes, Visa is helping Phelps and Hoff launch their Mandarin-based web pages that will allow the people of China to track their progress in preparation for the Beijing Olympic Games. The Mandarin-based pages can be accessed via, a newly launched social networking website devoted entirely to the sport of swimming.

"One of my biggest career goals is to promote and raise the sport of swimming and its profile both in the U.S. and around the world," said Mr. Michael Phelps, an eight-time Olympic Medalist and 17-time World Champion. "With the support of Visa, Speedo and Special Olympics, I am honored to be a part of the "Visa Friendship Lanes Tour" and am really looking forward to sharing my passion for swimming with a country that is excited to host the World Games and Olympic Games."

Phelps' partnership with Visa began shortly after the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney , Australia . Since then, he has appeared in Visa's national television commercial "Lap" prior to the Athens Olympic Games.

In early February Visa brought 15 Olympic and Paralympic Hopefuls to Inspire Communities and Preview Beijing Marketing Programs to New York City . Once again Michael Phelps was front and center for the credit card company.

Visa, a Worldwide Olympic Partner for more than two decades, today introduced its team of athletes for the Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the Visa Olympic Media Summit in New York City . During the event, Visa and its family of athletes extended their ongoing commitment to the Partnership for Play Every Day - an effort to raise national awareness and support for increasing and improving the spaces where America 's youth can play. Visa also unveiled its integrated marketing campaign in support of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

"For America 's kids, the time to play is today," said Olympic and World Champion swimmer Michael Phelps. "We need everyone's help in providing all kids with access to safe and well-equipped spaces where they can exercise, have fun and maybe even pursue their own Olympic dreams."

The Partnership for Play Every Day is bringing together organizations including nonprofits, businesses and government agencies to ensure that all children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Federal funding for local parks, playgrounds, trails and open spaces has decreased in recent years, and one of the partnership's objectives is to increase the number of settings where kids can engage in physical activity.

"As a longtime Olympic sponsor, we're committed to empowering current and future Olympic team hopefuls to reach for and achieve their dreams," said Michael Lynch, head of global sponsorship marketing, Visa Inc. "We believe in the Play Every Day call to action and saw an opportunity to involve our Olympic family in an initiative that addresses a growing health issue and will get more kids participating in Olympic sports."

And as it turns out Michael Phelps and Team Visa are the perfect marriage between an athlete and a corporate partner. Eight years of standing by Michael Phelps is about to pay huge dividends for Visa – a classic example of how to manage a sports sponsorship.

Phelps march towards eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games continues tonight (Friday morning in Beijing ) when he wins the men’s 200IM. Friday in part IV of SBN’s week long series on Michael Phelps we’ll look at Phelps relationship with PowerBar and his other sponsors. Saturday we’ll look at Phelps relationship with Adidas (he’ll swim for a $1 billion bonus that day) and Sunday we’ll focus on Michel Phelps lasting Olympian marketing legacy.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom.

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