The fat lady – or at least the Spice Girls – may have sung out the London Olympics, but for many the closing ceremony was a starting gun.
For athletes hoping to make hay from their medals or memory-sticking moments, to businesses who helped build the Games infrastructure and want to use their brand association to further their fortunes, to Big Bash League teams dallying with Jamaican sprinters and sports bodies looking through the window at the autopsy into our performance and reaching out for the next wads of funding – this is the time coaches step out and the dealmakers go to work.
Athlete Sally Pearson cleared the first hurdle by winning the gold medal she was favoured for. Her cooking sessions in Coles aprons with Curtis Stone are just the cream. Manager Robert Joske, once the guiding force behind brand SR Waugh and still Simon Katich, heads into a period of renegotiations with her four blue chip sponsors, who already pay her, combined, in the region of $500,000.
It’s a different story for swimmer James Magnussen who missed out on a gold by the width of an apostrophe, elevating the CommBank’s Mr. T into the smartest guy in the room, making C-A and N out to be optimistically naive.
Anna Meares fell foul of the IOC sponsorship police before the Games with a TV and magazine spot for the Australian Mining Council but aside from them the Queenslander may struggle to find a niche, unless Bundy or Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook picked up on her quote on return. When asked what she wanted, she replied “a rum and a lamington”.
Joske has acknowledged that most Australian competitors, even gold medallists, who received a $20,000 award via the IOC, will return to an indifferent sponsorship marketplace, continuing a period of financial frustration for them.
London 2012 was touted as the Social Games. Athletes were eager to exploit the new technologies by cutting out the media middlemen and taking the role for themselves; becoming a direct channel to sell their sponsors’ wares direct to their adoring-slash-gullible public.
In this way they hoped to make themselves more valuable to existing and potential sponsors and secure a larger share of the riches the Games generates.
Many were frustrated to find the IOC rules stopped them doing that, although Usain Bolt managed some sneaky tweets about a fragrance peddled by Puma, a company that has paid him an estimated $24 million deal over three years. Some athletes are bigger than the Games.
For smaller fry, the official protection period for Olympic sponsors, covered by the now famous Rule 40 of the IOC participation agreement, ended yesterday (August 16), allowing athletes free reign to become salesmen.