Should Olympic athletes have the right to traditional sponsorships?

Ari Jacoby, CEO of Solve Media, recently wrote about a topic that I am surprised, in this day and age of media and sponsorships, hasn’t been reversed yet. Why can’t Olympic athletes benefit from the same sponsorship opportunities as everyone else in the world?

First off, if you don’t know Solve Media, check their site out – they offer an extremely innovative way to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your advertising dollar, while also simplifying a common web annoyance – the randomly generated “type what you (can’t) see” Captcha”. You gotta LOVE companies built on innovation that provide a service that benefits both businesses and consumers.

So before we talk about the Olympics specifically, let’s take a look at the precedent that has already been set worldwide with regards to sponsoring athletes and teams:


(NBA to begin allowing jersey advertisements in 2013)

So what do the above pictures have in common?

They are all athletes.

They are all (relatively speaking) highly paid athletes.

They are all highly paid athletes wearing the logo of a corporation.

So we have established that a precedent has been set, worldwide, that pre-game, in-game, and post-game sponsorship is acceptable to viewers. The public is perfectly OK with seeing corporate logos during competition.

Furthermore, the above players are free to promote any sponsor they want, regardless of the teams’ sponsorship decisions. In-game and post-game press-conference action aside, they can promote that sponsor when they want, how they want. Want to tweet “Coke Zero helped me win!” after the NBA finals? Go right ahead.

Now let’s take that concept and compare it to current Olympic policies. According to Olympic rules in London, no athlete is allowed to promote any non-official-sponsor for (roughly) the duration of the Olympics – July 18th through August 15th. Want to upload a picture of you eating a McDonalds’ salad? A-OK, they are an official sponsor. Panera? No way, they may be YOUR sponsor, but they don’t buy into the Olympics.

Sure, not a big deal for some Olympians like Michael Phelps who have a huge bankroll from post-Olympic sponsorship revenue. However the majority of these athletes are just regular people who are immensely talented, devoting a good portion of their lives to a sport they love. After the Olympics, they see a bit of local fame, then it’s back to reality. An Olympian typically makes just shy of nothing. Travel expenses are funded by private donors, and there are bonuses IF you take home a medal.

The Olympics are all about capable people seizing an opportunity, and the committee’s financial interests should not limit the extent of that opportunity. Companies should be able to invest in athletes and athletes should be able to, in turn, promote their chosen sponsor in the same appropriate way every other athlete can.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for companies like Solve who aim to improve something so simple, yet so broken. Captchas that contain strange words and distorted letters are annoying, period, and their solution eliminates that annoyance for consumers. My admiration for the company aside, Solve Media did a terrific thing by sponsoring two world-class athletes, despite the mandatory limitations that exist in their ability to actually promote the brand. They are no dummies either – this will certainly result in some positive press. For example, Forbes and others have picked up the story. Simply good business all around.

Now let’s hope Rio thinks big in 2016 by letting Olympians’ share in the same sponsorship benefits enjoyed by their peers all over the globe.

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Welcome to the NFL, Robert Griffin III – what can you teach us?

It takes a lot for someone to admit this publicly given the pain and suffering we have endured for years….but I am a diehard, go hard or go home Redskins fan. I know every single word to Hail to the Redskins….yes, there is more to the song than “Hail to the Redskins, Hail Victory!”. I am quiet on offense, and am straining every inch of my vocal chords on defense. My teeth clench and my left eye twitches just a bit when I see that blue star. So naturally, I have been eagerly anticipating this day….the day we get to see Robert Griffin III suit up and face a real, live, NFL defense.

Being a Redskins fan, I have learned not to get my hopes up, so this post isn’t about how great this player is going to be…he hasn’t proven a thing yet, and we all need to keep that in perspective. However, he has shown a tremendous ability to lead, inspiring fans and his teammates with his poise and preparation.

As a professional who aspires to get the most out of myself, my colleagues, and my clients every day, I am really enjoying studying how “BobGriff” leads his team, but also how he interacts with the media, taking note of some really thoughtful and inspiring statements. Let’s take a look:

Q: “Are you going to be nervous leading up to your first game?”

Griffin: “I think I’ll be more anxious than nervous. When you’re anxious, you can’t wait to go succeed

I thought back to some of my more “anxious” moments in my career, comparing that feeling to being nervous. Nerves are a blessing – your body telling you that something isn’t right…most likely you are not prepared, you’re missing something. We’ve all been in a situation where we were unprepared…it feels horrible. Conversely, remember that feeling you get when you have prepared for something so thoroughly that you are just ready to hit it head on and will run over anything in your way? The difference between being nervous…and being anxious.

Q: Are you worried about your offensive line blocking for you with so many starters hurt?

Griffin: If you think you have a banged up offensive line or a bad offensive line then as a Quarterback, you’ll play scared. One thing I don’t want those guys to think is that I don’t trust them — I definitely trust my offensive line, whoever is out there with us.

We all know it – confidence is key. Not just YOUR confidence, but that of your teammates. Griffin takes this opportunity to make a public statement that he trusts each and every guy on the field with him…whether they are a starter, a pro bowl player, or a rookie, they are in it together. He could have said “no, next man up will do the job, we miss those guys but we’ll be OK” but frankly that’s not good enough. He needs whoever is out there to perform their absolute best, he is setting the expectation that they will, and he is making them feel comfortable and confident in their own abilities to succeed. What a great reminder of the importance of inspiring confidence in each other as individuals and as a team.

Q: Are you worried about any routes you aren’t comfortable with?

A: “There are always those routes as a quarterback that you have. There are routes that I feel good with and there’s routes I don’t feel good about. It’s just my job to echo that to Coach and to continue working on the ones I don’t feel so good about, so that when it comes down to it we can pull anything out of our bag of tricks and go for it.” 

We tend to forget this, especially when things are going well, but this is a great reminder about being honest with yourself regarding your gaps and where you can improve, as well as surrounding yourself with people you trust to help you continue growing as a person, as a friend, a teammate, a father, a brother, etc. The anatomy of a Salesperson consists of many unique qualities, one of them being an immense fear/discomfort with regards to those who you are close with (clients, management, etc) being disappointed in you. As anyone who has sat on a sales forecast call knows, a great leader often tests their people on their willingness to find gaps in their approach, and their natural ability to know when it’s time to ask for advice from others on how to improve. The only thing more inspiring than a confident person is when that confident person asks for help, gets it, and reaps the rewards.

Enough RG3 love for the day…well, until kickoff that is. Stay healthy Griff, good luck, we’re rooting for you!!

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