There are 10,000 athletes competing in the 2012 London Olympics. Maybe a dozen will land cereal deals.
By this time next week, the torch will be extinguished and the Olympic Village will be readied for its second life as affordable East London housing with a couple of killer community swimming pools. Most of Team USA will return to the obscurity of training schedules and low-wage day jobs. A few will land endorsement deals from marketers looking to capitalize on America’s newest stars, with none luckier than those signed to the perfect union of product and endorser—an athlete on a cereal box.
Wheaties started the practice in 1934 to coincide with its new slogan, ‘The Breakfast of Champions.’ Baseball great Lou Gehrig was the first athlete to appear, and since then hundreds of amateur and professional athletes and sports teams have made the front of the orange box. Wheaties alums are a veritable Who’s Who of the Olympics world, with everyone from Muhammad Ali (1960 Olympics) to Mary Lou Retton (1984) to 18 appearances for Michael Jordan (1984 and 1992). In 2008 Michael Phelps was the first Olympian to strike a deal with Corn Flakes, and this year the brand signed the gymnast Gabby Douglas, with plans to feature eight more athlete endorsers.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be archers.
Sports marketing insiders tell us what it takes to parlay ephemeral Olympic fame into long-term financial security and even prosperity.
- It’s got to be a gold medal
An Olympic appearance might bring goosebumps, pulse-pounding suspense, and smashed records. The glory is fleeting; gold is forever.
- It can’t be a gold medal in archery, fencing, team handball, slalom canoe, or any of the other Olympic sports that are visible for two weeks and disappear for the next four years. When a U.S. team member won the gold medal in skeet shooting last week she became the only American athlete to win individual medals in five consecutive Olympics. Kim Rhode. Not exactly a household name.
- Look the part
Olympians are expected to be young and fresh-faced, or have dermatologists, cosmetic dentists, and hair stylists to make them look it.
- Have a good back story
Woe to the Olympian raised in the suburban comforts of an intact family.
All the glory with none of that pesky dedication, perseverance, or talent
For $42.00, General Mills will put any picture you like on a custom Wheaties box.