Sure, everyone wants to win a gold metal but becoming famous for it isn’t always the easiest for most Olympians. For athletes such as Michael Phelps, it can be challenging.
"It's really random. There will be a couple who will be able to take advantage of it and it certainly has to happen right now," Richard Burton said, David Falk professor of sport management at Syracuse University. "Timing right now is everything for some of these sports that are less visible."
It’s hard to get the fame and harder to keep it even until the next game that is in 4 years. Executive creative director Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising said “It’s more about finding the athletes you think are going to be big in the Olympics and takin ga chance on them, it’s more of a guessing game.” In some cases, the athletes take themselves out of the running. Swimmers Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel, for an example, are both going to Stanford University and swimming for their school, and cannot be sponsored or receive other pay-to-play arrangements as per National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. That basically eliminates their fame.
“It’s very difficult if you’re not a top named athlete, the best you can hope for is a deal with an equipment based company that will sponsor you,” Bob Dorfman said. Sports-marketing experts say the International Olympics Committee's Rule 40, which deals with using the Games for marketing purposes, can also be somewhat of a struggle. Rule 40 is the reason why athletes have to tape over brand names and can only say their sponsors before and after the Games. Smaller brands can’t afford that type of marketing. It’s also about timing. If there is one thing Olympians know, it’s how to go fast which is why sports marking say they’ll have to do if they want to stand out.
Events and appearances are one way for athletes to earn money after the competition the U.S. gymnastics team, for an example, has a two-month tour sponsored by Kellogg's, which Dorfman said could net participating athletes in the "low six figures."
Many Olympic athletes do have regular day jobs as everything from accountants to firefighters. This year, Sponsors EY (formerly Ernst & Young) and Visa are both launching programs to help substitute careers of athletes after the games.
"That's a great PR move by EY and Visa," Dorfman said, adding that it could be most helpful from a business standpoint because these athletes already have a track record of discipline and a strong work ethic. Enterprises like this could help the athletes, too. "Unless you're the greatest of all time or close to it, it's very hard to extend your shelf life," Dorfman said.