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March 01, 2022

Which Canadian Olympian will strike endorsement gold?

Long before these 2010 games, there were the athletes we knew, the favourites of the media machine.

Lindsey Vonn had her bikinis, Shaun White had his millions and, hey, even Patrick Chan had a CTV commercial or two.

But as the Olympics have drawn to a close, it’s fit to start wondering which athletes will be able to parlay their flood of exposure into endorsement gold from here until Russia in 2014.

(Yeah, I know, who cares about this right now? We just won 14 golds! Well, guessing the athletes do: according to Michael Simonson’s book Heat Stroke, about 80% of Canada’s amateur competitors live below the poverty line.)

Let’s start by debunking one chief myth about Olympic sponsorship deals. The alpha dogs aren't guaranteed to get paid. Athens gold medal gymnast Kyle Shewfelt had this legend proven false when, after the Canadian signed with global marketing firm IMG, he was only pulling in a reported $35,000-$40,000 a year by 2008.

Also, it’s worth tempering our expectations a little. Local Olympians aren’t likely to command Shaun White, $7.5 million-a-year American money because our country’s “limited sponsorship opportunities … (make it) rare for a Canadian medal winner to earn more than $500,000 from corporate deals,” a marketing source told the Star.

Of course, that's not to say there's no money to be had. That same Star article illustrates how past medalists Catriona Le May Doan and Silken Laumann, for example, could’ve commanded up to $10,000 for a speaking engagement following their Olympic success.

So, which Canadian athletes look primed to deliver marketing magic following Vancouver?

We’d like to say Joannie Rochette, our nation’s courageous figure-skating flag bearer, or Brian McKeever, the inspiring cross-country skier, will strike it big, but let’s face the reality of their circumstances: the “it” stories of the Olympic games often don’t translate to lasting big media success.

Two of the early favourites who could find resonating mainstream cachet might be ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, who stole the first week of the Olympics with a three-night marvel that culminated in gold.

But the real front-runner may just be curler Cheryl Bernard (dubbed the “curglar” by ESPN’s Bill Simmons) who, judging by the number of cutaways CTV gave her at last night’s closing ceremonies, we’re likely to see a lot more of between now and Sochi.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...