From softball to taekwondo, Hispanic athletes played prominent roles on this year's U.S. Olympic squad. Now, some are in a position to turn gold into green.
Sixteen Hispanics represented the United States in Athens, making up a little over 2.9 percent of the entire team and bringing home seven of the United States' 103 medals. And while the number of Hispanic athletes on the team has remained steady – between 2 percent and 3 percent over the past three Games – the number of Hispanics winning medals is growing and bringing with it some lucrative opportunities.
Now more than ever, corporations are leveraging Olympic athletes in hopes that consumers and sports fans will share their affinity for those athletes with the products they endorse. That potentially lucrative connection also isn't lost on companies trying to reach the booming Hispanic market.
Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, says Hispanic athletes have become a hot commodity. "Companies like Visa that have a global presence and want to localize their brands across regions, they will go after the athletes that can bring their brand to the marketplace," Mr. Swangard says. "We're heading into a stage where the growth of the Hispanic market is becoming one of those buzz terms, and it stands to reason that those athletes that have Hispanic heritage will benefit from it."
Jim Andrews, senior vice-president of IEG, a sponsorship research firm, agrees. "Companies are trying to get a little bit of the rub-off effect of the goodwill people feel for these athletes," he says.
While athletes and sponsors are reluctant to divulge the value of their deals, IEG estimates North American companies will spend approximately $600 million on Olympic-related properties in 2004. Sports marketers say individual Olympic gold medalists can make anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 on marketing deals resulting from this summer's Games.
Among the Hispanic athletes who already have captured the attention of Corporate America with their Olympic achievements is two-time taekwondo golden boy Steven Lopez, who capitalized on some pre-Games buzz to land endorsement deals with Nike, McDonald's, and The Home Depot.
|U.S. Hispanic Summer Olympians 1996-2004|
|Total Athletes||Total Hispanics||% of Team||Total Medals||Hispanic Medals||% of Total Medals|
|Source: Hispanic Business, based on U.S. Olympic Committee data|