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K-State Today

July 12, 2012

Going for the gold: Medals aren't only way an Olympic champion can excel

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

A gold medal at the Olympic games can mean more than being the best in the world in a particular sport. It also can prove lucrative in the marketing world, according to a Kansas State University marketing expert.

Kevin Gwinner, professor and head of the department of marketing in the university's College of Business Administration, says gold medals often translate to product endorsements for an athlete.

How big the endorsement will be, whether local or national, will depend on the athlete, Gwinner said.

"It really depends on the visibility of the athlete and the type of product they are being asked to endorse. For example, a Subway endorsement will pay more than a local pizza shop endorsement," he said.

But a gold medal is no guarantee an Olympic athlete will land endorsement deals. Gwinner said a company selecting an athlete -- or celebrity -- as an endorser will take the following factors into account:

* The athlete is a high achiever. "Multiple Olympics or multiple medals are better than one," Gwinner said.

* Consumers believe the athlete believes in the product and is not doing it only for money.

* The athlete is well known -- has an easily recognizable name.

* The athlete has a likable personality and is admired.

* The athlete is visually recognizable. "This means beyond recognizing the name, will the consumer also recognize a picture of the athlete," Gwinner said.

* The athlete is physically attractive.

But hiring an athlete also comes with risks for a company if her or she gets in trouble for bad behavior, such as getting a DUI.

"It's always risky to hire a celebrity or athlete as an endorser. That's why good conduct/morality clauses are usually written into the endorsement contracts. They let companies get rid of someone who behaves badly," Gwinner said.

"Also, I think that the public recognizes that the athletes' actions, such as getting a DUI, are not the fault of the company. But the company needs to act quickly to separate themselves from the athlete," he said.