As the 2012 Olympics draw to a close, attention is being focused on which of the shining stars from the London games will get the most endorsements.
No doubt those that play in America’s most watched and covered sports on television, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, beach volleyball, diving and women’s soccer stand a chance at winning top deals. Not all athletes who medal are guaranteed lucrative endorsement deals though certainly that helps.
Also, as with the recent controversy regarding hurdles athlete Lolo Jones, you don’t even have to live up to the hype and medal to land a coveted deal. So said a New York Times article written Tuesday which LoLo herself responded to on the Today show Wednesday morning.
“I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles.” She added, “They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I just thought that that was crazy because I worked six days a week, every day, for four years for a twelve-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, which is heartbreaking.”
But the Times isn’t the only one. Fellow U.S. Track and Field runners Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, who won silver and bronze respectively, in the women’s 100 meter hurdles Tuesday night expressed frustration that they aren’t getting enough media attention to their win over Jones.
Speaking with Wells about having a good story they felt worthy of coverage, Harper expressed the sentiments on behalf of both, seemingly.
“Because their favorite didn’t win all of sudden it’s just like, ‘Were going to push your story aside and still going to push this one,’” Harper told NBC sports. “That hurt. It did. It hurt my feelings.”
In a piece on the Multicultural Cooking Channel Network, editor in chief Crystal Johnson, suggested that perhaps Harper and Wells’ complexion and appearance played a hand in their not getting media attention.
“What they didn’t have was the look,” Johnson wrote. “You know, that “Miss America-Vanessa Williams” look.”
Unfortunately, if Johnson is correct, then the double standard in sports spill over to endorsement because certainly not as much focus is placed on male athletes. As with the case of swimmer Michael Phelps, the accomplishments are enough to net a deal even though he isn’t necessarily the most attractive U.S. Swimmer on the team. Recent ruckus about all-around gold medalist and team medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair is further proof that for women, sometimes their looks and appearance matter first, in the eyes of some.
A St. Louis Federal Reserve study showed that people who are attractive earn 5% more than their average looking co-workers, and therefore the key to netting lucrative athletic endorsement deals may not rest solely on your athletic skills and accomplishments, but on your looks as well.
Isn’t that what other tennis stars often accused Anna Kournakova of, who also had never won a major tennis tournament but has racked up millions in endorsement deals?