The International Olympics Committee is one of the biggest, most aggressive marketers of the Olympic Brand. It should come as no surprise that athletes want a piece of the action for themselves. American runner Nick Symmonds has shown his appreciation for the true Olympic spirit by auctioning off a corporate sponsorship on his left shoulder.
Hanson Dodge Creative, an advertising and design agency in Milwaukee, won the right to pay Symmonds $11,000 to tattoo its Twitter hashtag on his left shoulder. As a piece by Stewart Elliot in the New York Times assures us, it’s only a temporary tattoo – but it will be there for the duration of the Olympic Games and 2012.
The Olympics once prided itself on honoring amateurism in athletics – a standard that was often controversial on the margins because it was hard to enforce. Everyone needs to earn a livelihood somehow, and the eastern bloc countries for years had a form of state-sponsored professionalism of athletes. That said, is it an emancipation for athletes to be selling their bodies as a vehicle for corporate tattoos? Talk about “branding”!
Hanson Dodge bought the "tattoo rights" before Nick Symmonds won a berth on the US Olympic team. After he made Team USA, it meant that Hanson Dodge would now get far more public exposure for its $11,000 than originally anticipated. Symmonds proudly noted, “You’re never going to find a better cpm.”
Yes, athletes have become experts on advertising. A “cpm” is a trade term for “cost per thousand,” or the cost that advertisers pay TV, radio or newspaper outlets to reach a thousand consumers. One might say that Symmonds is a perfect representative for Team USA: sell, sell sell!
There is something very sad about the Olympics becoming little more than a strike-it-rich business opportunity. Symmonds is unapologetic. When he finished first in a race in June, he stuck out his tongue in defiance, and said: “My brand identity is to treat every day like it's your last, live life to the fullest.” Living life to the fullest apparently means acting like a boor and leveraging the cash value of Brand Symmonds.