They’re young, talented and often beautiful. They’re inspiring, high performing and driven. They promote a healthy lifestyle and present as an aspirational figure. They’re a great investment. They’re an ideal opportunity for brand alignment. Or, are they?
More often than not, they’re also immature, ego-driven, pampered and use to being the centre of attention. There’s nothing startling in saying this – teenage Olympians are not uncommon and their families, coaches and support network are revolving around their competition needs. It has to be about them. It’s partially that focus and dedication that makes them successful.
But regardless of their sporting prowess and achievements, the risk of a young Olympian saying or doing the wrong thing is reasonably high. Athletes are not exempt from the usual rites of passage for teenagers and twenty-somethings.
They may become rebellious and/or seek the occasional (or frequent) activity to cut loose. It may be a slip of the tongue said in high excitement without thought to the possible ramifications. It may be a lack of tact – not a notable strength for many teenagers around the country.
Think Michael Phelps and the photograph of him with a bong post the Beijing Games. Think Stephanie Rice and her proclivity to tweet first, think later.
Back in 2004, at the Athens Olympic Games, Leisel Jones was the target of our ire as she looked like she’d prefer to be anywhere but the medal dais when it came time to collect her bronze medal which she had hoped would be gold. She wore the ‘spoilt brat’ label for a long time after.
More recently, Kenrick Monk, Nick D’Arcy, John Steffensen and retired Olympian, Grant Hackett may give businesses reason to hesitate.
So, am I saying don’t invest? Absolutely not. Not all Olympians are alike. We have had and do have amazing young athletes who impress outside of their sporting endeavours: Matt Welsh, Louise Savage, Torah Bright, Lauren Jackson, Ky Hurst, Anna Meares.
It’s quite unbelievable that track cyclist, Anna Meares, holder of Olympic and World Championship gold medals, as well as an Order of Australia medal, has entered these Games with barely any corporate support or sponsorship.
The profiling opportunities and commercial benefit that can come from being associated with the right Olympian is considerable. Your brand may be perpetually associated with inspiring the next generation – of athletes or business leaders.
Could it be the start of a life-long alignment with significant benefit for your business? Yes. Is it an investment without risk? No. Do you need to do your research to make a considered decision? Yes. Can you be assured of the outcome? No.
In the end, it may just be the roll of the dice that decides whether it is the best investment you’ll ever make.