Recipe for Success

    • While Olympians have the momentum of the games behind them, they should be aggressive in seeking sponsorships, one expert said.
    • Athletes should also look for brands that align with their personality and values, another suggested.

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Steveson had already signed his deal with Kill Cliff before winning gold. He’s now part of the energy drink company’s “Fight Club,” a group of wrestlers who endorse the product. 

Between Steveson’s athletic prowess — he had already won an NCAA championship — and his personal story, he “was really a perfect fit to be in the Fight Club,” CMO and ESPN Sport Science Creator and Host John Brenkus told FOS. 

How can other athletes capitalize on their Olympic fame right now?

Full-Court Press

Olympians experience the height of coverage between about two months before the Olympics to one month after, Ishveen Anand, founder and CEO of sponsorship marketplace OpenSponsorship, told FOS.

During the Games, Lee experienced a 511% increase in Instagram followers and now has about 1.5 million, according to the platform. Gymnastics team silver medalist Jordan Chiles, who will join a UCLA team with projected value of over $1 million, experienced a 119% increase, and now boasts about 444,000 followers.

Athletes should take advantage of this golden window of opportunity to be aggressive with locking down deals, Anand said. Brands are looking for Olympians to partner with, at least on her platform. “There’s only a small part of athletes who can sit back and relax,” she said.

“Be proactive in getting sponsorship right now.” 

Brands’ Wish List

While racking up medals obviously helps, hardware isn’t necessarily the most important thing to brands.

“I think we live in a time where the whole picture is more important than a single snapshot of that one moment,” Brenkus said. “I feel like someone who values what they stand for, how they conduct themselves, their character, is far more important than any one accolade.”

Right now, brands are looking for athletes who align with their values and have an audience interested in their products. Kill Cliff, for example, was founded by a former Navy SEAL, Brenkus said, so making sure an athlete shares its values is paramount. 

Plus, the nearly 300,000 people who follow Steveson on Instagram would presumably be the audience interested in the Fight Club and Kill Cliff’s product, Brenkus explained. It’s much more useful for a brand like this to partner with a wrestler than with a Power 5 quarterback.