I love the Olympics. I look forward to them every two years, and spend weeks at a time on my couch crying tears of joy as I cheer on the American sweethearts of that year’s Games. This year I’m most excited to tune in as our track and field athletes take on the fastest in the world in events like the 5k, 10k, and the marathon (Go Desi!).
But there’s one thing viewers won’t see. As Team USA suits up for its respective events, the athletes will not be wearing their own sponsorship logos. Instead, they will don the Swoosh. Nike’s exclusive sponsorship agreement, which was recently extended by USA Track and Field through 2040, cannot be infringed upon by the members of Team USA. The athletes receive a reported stipend of approximately $10,300 for any appearance on the international level.
This is a huge deal for these athletes. Runners simply do not make the salaries associated with other professional sports like football, basketball, and baseball. Instead, they rely on their sponsorship agreements and endorsements in order to make a decent living. When those opportunities are taken off the table at the world’s most publicized meet, a significant percentage of their overall revenue potential disappears.
Athletes have responded to this issue in different ways. Lauren Fleshman, an incredibly decorated 5k runner, has devised a new racing kit that gives athletes the opportunity to sell a secondary logo at their own discretion. Her proposal was presented at the USATF Annual Meeting in December of 2015.
Nick Symmonds, on the other hand, has decided to totally circumvent the national federation by auctioning off ad space on eBay. The space in question? His skin. In exchange for a temporary tattoo on his shoulder, John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, offered $21,800.
Legere, for his part, sent a Tweet out inviting followers to decide what temporary tattoo they create for Nick.
I know this much: I’ll be rooting for Fleshman and Symmonds this summer. Whether they’ll find a way to win remains to be seen. But they’re certainly finding crafty ways to get the sponsorship opportunities that, by virtue of their hard work and success, they richly deserve.
Cover photo by NY Daily News