Nicholas Symmonds clelebrates as he wins the Men's 800 meter during the 2011 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field on June 26, 2011 in Eugene, Ore. Nick Symmonds wants runners to sport personal sponsorships. Meet officials fear angering event sponsors. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Some atheletes can make a lot of money through corporate sponsorships. Some aren't allowed to display ads on themselves.

Now, one elite runner who wants to change that, as Elizabeth Wynne Johnson reports.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: Top-ranked in the 800-meters, Nick Symmonds is a favorite for the U.S. Olympic track and field team. And he’s become an outspoken critic of sponsorship rules in his sport. So to make a point, Symmonds went on eBay and offered to tattoo his left shoulder with the logo of the highest bidder.

Nick Symmonds:  Specifically what I’m talking about is the athletes’ rights to market themselves to companies.

A marketing firm in Milwaukee called Hanson-Dodge Creative bid over $11,000.

The sport took notice. U.S.A. Track & Field spokeswoman Jill Geer.

Jill Geer: Nick brought to the general public’s attention the overall issue of logo restrictions and usage for athletes.


Geer: What he did in terms of the eBay auction was to very much oversimplify the issue.

Geer says the Adidas and Nikes of the world put a lot of money directly into athletes’ pockets by sponsoring meets, and paying appearance fees and prize money.

Geer: So the fact that there were certain restrictions in effect to protect manufacturers' logos is simply a recognition of the economic nature of our sport.

As for Nick Symmonds, the organizers of his next event have changed their rules, so he’ll get to unveil his “Hanson-Dodge” tattoo on Saturday.

I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.