Kai Ryssdal: For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over NBC’s broadcast strategy for the Olympics, tape-delaying all the good stuff into primetime — turns out it might have worked. There’s been buzz the past couple of days that what looked like a $200 million loss for NBC on the Games, could be break even or even a small profit.
And wealth creation extends to the athletes too. Evan Morgenstein is president and CEO of PMG Sports. He’s been a sports agent for more than 15 years. That means he’s one of the people helping turn Olympic gold medalists into pitchmen for Nikes and Wheaties. We got him on the phone from — where else — the Olympics in London. Evan, good to have you with us.
Evan Morgenstein: Thanks for having me.
Ryssdal: So this is the naive question but doesn’t it kind of — and maybe it doesn’t for you, I don’t know — but doesn’t it kind of make you go, ‘Oh come on, can’t we just go out there and play the Games?’
Morgenstein: No. Now look, I’m all about money, right? That’s why people hire me. If I wanted to be their coach, I guess they can hire me as a coach, but I stink as a coach. So they hire me to make them money. So I know where my bread’s buttered.
I look this as a very unique time because there are athletes on their way up, there are athletes on their way down. Here’s a real conundrum on the Olympics: Last night, Sanya Richards-Ross did what she always wanted to do. She’s probably dreamed about this her whole life, she dreamed as a little girl of being an Olympic gold medalist. And last night, in front of a huge audience, she did just that. And what I would say to you is that no matter what, the marketability of that accomplishment was sort of secondary because if you ask anybody about what they saw last night, they’re all going to tell you they saw Usain Bolt become the greatest athlete in the world, period. Most athletes are never going to make more than six figures no matter what they do. The very, very top, top 1 percent maybe.
Ryssdal: That’s actually a really good point. This is an easy opportunity to squander.
Morgenstein: Yeah, of course.
Ryssdal: So when you’re looking at this crop of athletes coming out of the Olympics, I mean obviously gymnastics and swimming are the easy ones, but what about, I don’t know, trampoline?
Morgenstein: I’ve always said that if you were really good on trampoline, you’re probably never going to be known unless you come off the trampoline and landed flat on your face, or they feature you in Cirque du Soleil. So yeah, these third-level, fourth-level sports always have an opportunity, but mostly it’s endemic.
So if you’re Kim Rose and you’re a five-time Olympic gold medalist in shooting — first of all, I think that’s incredible, I don’t know anybody that’s ever done that before. That says a lot about her. How marketable she is? In the endemics, I’m sure she’s an icon. If you’re a gun manufacturer or you’re the NRA, if you are anybody who has an association with something associated with firearms, I think she’s probably somebody you’re going to look at. Are you going to find some type of mainstream sports drink company that wants to work with her? I’d say probably not.
Ryssdal: Is there gender equity in the endorsement game, as it were, coming out of the Olympics?
Morgenstein: No. Women make a lot more than men do.
Ryssdal: No come on, really?
Morgenstein: Yeah. I’ve always been able to make female athletes that have basically all the skill sets, accomplishments, the looks that you need for Madison Avenue to fall in love with you, make them two or three times what a male athlete with a similar type of accomplishment would make. Easily. And that happens only in the Olympics.
Ryssdal: Evan Morgenstein, he’s the CEO of PMG Sports. He does, as he said, sports for business. Evan, thanks a lot.
Morgenstein: My pleasure, it was nice speaking with you.