Phelps in the market to sell dreams

Scott Tong Aug 15, 2008
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Phelps in the market to sell dreams

Scott Tong Aug 15, 2008
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Bob Moon: Now lets do some other numbers — Olympic-style. Michael Phelps won his sixth gold medal at the Summer Games in Beijing today. Record time for the 200-meter individual medley. If he gets seven, Speedo gives him a million dollars. And more endorsements are expected, especially in host country China. Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports from Beijing.


Scott Tong: As soon as Phelps got out of the water in Athens four years ago, the sponsors started lining up. A Hong Kong mp3 player company gave him a million bucks a year. Visa has flown him into workshops in China — an emerging market for plastic swiping. And Speedo hopes Phelps can help it outfit tens of millions of new Chinese fitness buffs.

Phelps’ agent expects more China deals after the Games. But longtime marketers say when it comes to selling dreams here, the water is choppier than it looks.

Beijing consultant David Wolf:

David Wolf: The Chinese want stars that they can relate to, just like in the United States we want stars we can relate to as well. You know, Mary Lou Retton in 1984, she was the girl next door. That’s the kind of celebrity that you want to have in China, not necessarily someone like Mr. Phelps.

There are exceptions in China: Lebron, Kobe, Beckham. The question is whether Phelps has the same transcendant appeal.

In Beijing, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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