10.09.2012

ATHLETE ENDORSEMENT: PARALYMPIC VS OLYMPIC

The British public are yearning for the summer of sport feel good factor to continue. Riding the wave of Olympic success, the Paralympics steps into the limelight this week. An event which is set to raise the profile of disabled sport to unprecedented levels. Just look at the ticket sales; London has already sold 2.5 million tickets (expected to be sold out) compared to 1.2million, 850,000 and 1.8 million at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Paralympics respectively.

Brands naturally want to get in on the act too, whether it is purely jumping on the feel good factor bandwagon or to stake a claim for their own Olympic or Paralympic ‘legacy’. Athlete endorsements are just one tactic to clamber through the legal obstacles. Team GB and high profile international Olympians were inundated with inflated endorsements, so too proportionately are the GB Paralympics Team. Second only to China in the 2008 Paralympics medal table, Team GB are expected to better their tally of 42 gold’s and continue the GB gold medal rush.

However there is a difference. Brands seek endorsements with Olympians, not just for their global exposure and marketing capacity but also for their sheer athleticism and wow factor. Think Virgin Media’s advertising with Usain Bolt. This enables a brand a unique claim to associate with the fastest man or the best all round sportswoman on the planet. The admiration and awe of such status is unanimous as such a feat can be fully related to and appreciated.

The tune of the Paralympics is somewhat different, perhaps illustrated best by the strapline of Channel 4’s advert ‘Meet the Superhumans’. Some claim that perhaps wrongly, the physical brilliance and skill of the Paralympic athletes are overshadowed by the heartfelt stories of redemption and overcoming life changing injuries. The cynics will say endorsement of Paralympians is a shallow attempt by brands to associate themselves with such remarkable stories and be utilised as a CSR stunt.

Over the coming days we will undoubtedly hear of the human stories, the brave and courageous background of 7/7 survivors or Iraq war veterans and their road to the Paralympics. However, hopefully the London games will show Paralympians for what they are; elite sportsmen and women.. 

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