Monday, August 25, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – This is the end my friends

What the Chinese called a hundred year odyssey ended Sunday evening in Beijing when the 29th Olympiad the 2008 Summer Olympic Games reached their conclusion. Sports Business News asked one very important question in the days immediately preceding the Beijing Games – will the first ever Olympic Games being held in China be called the best ever Games. The answer now is what it was then – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER.

When it comes to facilities Beijing receives a gold medal. When it comes to execution of events Beijing receives a gold medal. When it comes to the lasting legacy the Games will leave – the Chinese may one day be wise to remember this not so old quaint Chinese Proverb "be careful what you wish for, lest it come true". China’s totalitarian communist government who for so long wished and dreamed the world would be their oyster if only the International Olympic Committee would award China the right to host an Olympic Games now have to face the reality of what happens when the door opens. It will not happen today, it will not happen tomorrow, next week, next year or maybe not even in the next decade. But as sure as the Olympic flame was extinguished Sunday in Beijing – the Chinese people one day will realize democracy – now that they’ve tasted freedom.

Over the last few days there have been a number of remarkable events that have taken place in Beijing and China . These moments in time have everything to do with the real lasting legacy the Beijing Games will have on the Chinese people, the world and if there is justice the International Olympic Committee and their major sponsors.

Wednesday The New York Times and the world media reported that two women displaced by the Games of the 29th Olympiad where sentenced to a year in a prison labor camp. As the Times put it; Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying became the most recent examples of people punished for submitting applications to protest. A few would-be demonstrators have simply disappeared, at least for the duration of the Games, squelching already diminished hopes that the influx of foreigners and the prestige of holding the Games would push China ’s leaders to relax their tight grip on political expression.

“Can you imagine two old ladies in their 70s being re-educated through labor?” asked Li Xuehui, Ms. Wu’s son, who said the police told the two women that their sentence might remain in suspension if they stayed at home and stopped asking for permission to protest.

“I feel very sad and angry because we’re only asking for the basic right of living and it’s been six years, but nobody will do anything to help,” Mr. Li told The New York Times.

In the months leading up to the Games suggestions China’s totalitarian communist government would allow some free thought during the Games welcomed the news that protest zones would be set up for those who wished to ‘express’ their feelings about China during the Games.

“In order to ensure smooth traffic flow, a nice environment and good social order, we will invite these participants to hold their demonstrations in designated places,” Liu Shaowu, the security director for Beijing’s Olympic organizing committee, said at a news conference before the Games. He described the creation of three so-called protest zones and suggested that a simple application process would provide Chinese citizens an avenue for free expression; a right that has long been enshrined in China ’s Constitution but in reality is rarely granted.

“For Chinese petitioners, if their protest applications were approved, it would lead to a chain reaction of others seeking to voice their problems as well,” Mr. Li told The New York Times before the Games.

In what must have been a remarkable compliment to Chinese understanding – more than 75 (but less than 80) groups applied for permits. What makes this so ‘interesting’ all 75 to 80 groups thought better of following through with their planned protests.

Officials say that they received 77 protest applications but that nearly all of them were dropped after the complaints were “properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations.”

At a news conference on Wednesday, Wang Wei, the vice president of Beijing ’s Olympic organizing committee, was asked about the lack of protests. He said it showed the system was working. “I’m glad to hear that over 70 protest issues have been solved through consultation, dialogue,” he said. “This is a part of Chinese culture.”

But human rights advocates say that instead of pointing the way toward a more open society, the Olympics have put China ’s political controls on display.

“Given this moment when the international spotlight is shining on China, when so much of the international media are in Beijing, it’s unfathomable why the authorities are intensifying social control,” said Sharon Hom, the executive director of Human Rights in China in a New York Times report. “The truth is they’re sending a clear and disturbing message, one they’re not even trying to hide, which is we’re not even interested in hearing dissenting voices.”

The “lack” of planned protests and protestors didn’t stop six Americans from being arrested late last week and then being sentenced to 10-day prison terms as guests of the Chinese people.

According to various media reports: activists from the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet said Friday that they had no information about four other protesters who were detained early Thursday during a protest near National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest. The four are two Americans, a German and a Briton.

Extrajudicial detentions, a common punishment for Chinese dissidents, are rarely handed out to foreigners, who are often deported almost immediately after being taken into custody.

Members of Students for a Free Tibet have staged eight protests involving 55 people since the Olympics began on Aug. 8. Human rights advocates speculated that the government might be seeking to deter those contemplating similar activities in the Games’ final days.

J. Alexander Hamilton, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Beijing , said United States officials were working with Chinese authorities to gain more information about the detainees. “Our policy is to encourage the Chinese government to respect free expression and freedom of religion, which are protected by law,” he said.

According to The New York Times: On Friday, students for a Free Tibet declared that its Olympics campaign had succeeded and that it was winding down. In characteristically stealthy fashion, the announcement was made by two members who summoned reporters to a street corner with 20 minutes’ notice.

The members, Alice Speller and Ginger Cassady, said that even though the protests had been fleeting and witnessed by only a few Chinese, they had helped highlight the issue in the foreign media.

“ China is trying to show the world this face, that they are a modern, progressive country, but that really isn’t the truth,” said Ms. Speller, a law student from Britain in a New York Times report. “The real face is one that denies freedom of expression, and that denies it brutally and violently when it can.”

United States Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt Jr. said in a statement released Sunday that the Beijing government should demonstrate respect for human rights and free speech.

U.S. officials, he said, are "disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness."

China is home to 1.3 billion people – nearly a quarter of the world’s population. What’s a few displaced Chinese when you have the chance to host an Olympic Games?

The Washington Post reported that Cheng Linpeng, 34, formerly a fish farmer, found a job at a construction company in the capital, working on a residential building. But that project was shut down in July because of worries about dust and air pollution ahead of the Games.

"Because of the Olympics, we are not allowed to do our jobs anymore. The whole place was shut down, and we don't know when we'll be able to go back," Cheng said. What’s the loss of one’s livelihood in terms of cleaner air?

And those empty seats at Olympic events – pity if Linpeng and his now unemployed friends wanted to attend at Olympic event – the thought never crossed their minds.

"Would we be allowed?" Cheng asked, explaining that migrant workers are considered second-class citizens in Beijing . "The place is not so big, and it wouldn't be able to hold everyone who wants to come. We are not qualified."

As for the lack of protests – what role if any could the International Olympic Committee have played? Did the Lords of the Rings hope and pray the Games of the 29th Olympiad where free of protests?

The IOC "has "completely mishandled the human-rights issues in these Games," said Minky Worden, a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch in a Philadelphia Inquirer report.

The China Daily noted that the move to set aside the protest zones "is in line with Beijing 's promises to the International Olympic Committee to adhere to the Olympic traditions, such as free expression outside the sporting venues."

"It must be the most cynical interpretation of the freedom to protest - that you follow the rules, apply five days in advance, then are turned away or put under house arrest or worse," Worden said in a telephone interview, adding that most Chinese applicants were aware of the potential risks.

"How desperate do you have to be to file a protest that would result in likely detention?" Worden said.

Dreamers dream big dreams. When Beijing was awarded the Games of the 29th Olympiad on Friday July 13, 2001 (who ever suggested Friday the 13th was a bad day) the Chinese assured the world by the day the Games opened on August 8, 2008 Human Rights would be a bedrock of China’s society. Needless to say that hasn’t happened, but… takes many years to really create lasting change.

"They'll keep most of the things in place—certainly the harassment of the dissidents—and we won't see any kind of greater move towards liberalization or opening up or anything like that," Adam Segal, senior fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations predicted in a Business Week report. "Did this change China 's view in the world? Is this a turning point? No. It will just reinforce your sense of a party that's completely insecure and lacking a great deal of confidence."

Cheng Li, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Business Week he believes the government's successful staging of the Games will be a boost to reformers. "I believe the Olympics [will] make China more open, more transparent, more tolerant, and more confident," says Li, who predicts progress on human rights and media freedom. "The Chinese government has become more confident because of a successful Olympics—that helps the liberal wing of the leaders…they will argue that we should not be so scared of the international media and international integration and also to a certain extent openness or transparency," he says.

Progress won't happen quickly, cautions Li. But he told Business Week he believes the Games will spur reform over the medium term. "Probably it will take another 5 to 10 years," says Li. "But who will win the battle is quite clear."

Which of course comes back to the earlier issue raised – it isn’t a matter of if but when China ’s totalitarian communist government are toppled. That will be the true lasting legacy of the Games of the 29th Olympiad that will be what the Games be remembered for – the day China’s totalitarian communist government opened Pandora’s Box.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Business Week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – credit deserved – NBC’s amazing Olympics

If history teaches us anything it is that we learn from our mistakes. NBC’s 2008 Beijing Olympic experience is an example of how a major corporation (the National Broadcasting Company – NBC) owned by General Electric, took what they learnt from their previous Olympic Games coverage and will have delivered a stunning 17 days of coverage by the time the Games end Sunday.

The numbers (looked at in an earlier Insider Report) have seen NBC deliver their best ever Olympic Games ratings, best ever Olympic Games advertising sales and best ever Games coverage. That is a testament to learning what worked and didn’t work in the 11 previous Olympic Games NBC has televised.

NBC made their Olympic television debut when they showed the 1964 Summer Olympics from Tokyo, marking its Olympic TV debut. They did this with the aid of the Syncom 3 satellite for direct broadcasts.

Meanwhile, NBC first televised the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, while the 1964 Summer Olympics were the first Summer Olympics televised by NBC.

NBC had won the U.S. broadcast rights for the 1980 Summer Olympics, but when the United States Olympic Committee kept U.S. athletes home to honor the boycott announced by President Jimmy Carter, the telecasts were greatly scaled back. In the end, what had been 150 hours of scheduled coverage, shrunk to just a few hours of weekend highlights. These highlights were fed to local NBC stations for use on local newscasts. Many affiliates however, refused to show the Olympic highlights on their local news. They also refused to clear airtime for the few hours of coverage NBC did present.

NBC then bid for, and won, the rights to show the 1988 Summer Olympics. Network officials convinced the organizers in Seoul to stage most of its gold-medal finals in the afternoon, which is primetime of the previous night in the U.S. Bryant Gumbel was the host that year.

Just as his mentor Roone Arledge had before over at ABC, Dick Ebersol, who took over NBC Sports in 1989, decided to make the Olympics a staple of his network's sports television schedule. NBC continued its Summer Games coverage into the decade, with both the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. And as with Arledge (who had to deal with the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Games), Ebersol had to deal with breaking news during the Games. During the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, NBC suspended its coverage of a volleyball game and broadcast the news for several hours commercial-free. Bob Costas made its debut as primetime host in 1992. Costas had previously, hosted the late night coverage in Seoul.

To help defray the increasing costs of broadcast rights, NBC turned to cable and satellite services for additional coverage. In 1992, NBC teamed up with Cablevision for the Triplecast, which provided three channels of pay-per-view telecasts that supplemented NBC's regular coverage. However, NBC lost over $100 million, the package was dropped, and there was no supplemental coverage from Atlanta.

Coverage in the first decade of the 21st century revolved around two major storylines:

NBC became the sole U.S. rights holder for the Olympic Games for the entire decade and beyond. The network could rightly boast of being "America's Olympic Network" as it made the longest and most expensive commitment ever since the Olympics were first presented on TV. For the 1996 Summer Games, and all Games from 2000 to 2008, NBC paid a total of $3.5 billion, mostly to the International Olympic Committee but also to the USOC and local organizers. To extend rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2012 Summer Olympics, NBC then gave up another $2.2 billion.
The rise of various media platforms extended the reach and availability of Games coverage. NBC returned to supplemental cable/satellite coverage in 2000, with some events on CNBC and MSNBC.

In 2004, it added USA Network, Bravo, and Telemundo, all of which parent company NBC Universal had acquired earlier in the decade.

In 2006, Universal HD was added to the list of channels carrying the Games. Finally, in 2008, events were streamed live for the first time on the Internet through the website (Also in 2008, Oxygen replaced Bravo as a supplemental network, and NBC launched high-definition channels dedicated to the basketball and soccer competitions.)

USA Today sports media reporter Michael Hiestand (one of the most influential in the industry) believes NBC finally understood how they could best deliver an Olympic Games.

“Not to be ungrateful, but anybody watching Beijing Olympic TV could reasonably ask: NBC, what took you so long?
“What's good about NBC's coverage, which is so far highly rated and acclaimed, is that it's another step in the long slog toward bringing common sense to Olympic TV — and gradually squeezing out elements of the Olympic TV formula that long annoyed viewers.

“Take the up-close-and-personal features NBC uses to introduce viewers to largely unknown athletes. Now, they're usually concise and neatly tucked in event coverage.

“But they used to seem like mini-movies that could leave viewers just tuning in wondering if they really had the channel showing the Olympics. It took NBC's stream of tear-jerkers for the 1996 Atlanta Games — how did John Tesh manage to find so many athletes whose pets were gravely ill? — To turn the tide against these maudlin melodramas. NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol joked (sort of) that they'd no longer portray asthma as a life-threatening condition.

Now, NBC gives us glimpses of Beijing, rather than forced sightseeing. Travelogues became of Olympic TV when ABC's Roone Arledge invented the Olympic TV formula in the 1960s, when spanning the globe seemed exotic. But by the time CNN gave us Baghdad being bombed live in 1991, the novelty was gone. Still, it was only after NBC's wandering travelogues (albeit from fascinating Australia) for the 2000 Sydney Games that NBC cut back on forcing viewers back on the tour bus.” Hiestand offered in a USA Today report.

Hiestand continued his look at what NBC has done right and how they finally arrived were they are today: “Kids today might assume there was always lots of live Olympic action on various channels — even if the best action is still held for all-important prime time — because the idea seems obvious. But it was a long march to get it, though every moment of live Olympic action has been available to national Olympic TV rights-holder for decades.

“Many people probably didn't know that all-encompassing world TV coverage was being kept from them until NBC tried to sell it to them with its "Olympic Triplecast" of the 1992 Barcelona Games, a $125 TV package that almost nobody bought. And even after CBS offered free supplemental cable TV Olympic action for the 1994 Lillehammer Games, NBC offered none for its wildly popular 1996 Atlanta Games. That rendered many top athletes, such as soccer's Mia Hamm, invisible.

“The trickle of supplemental cable TV coverage NBC began with the 2000 Games led to this year's debut of NBC putting the world TV feed being available online — something that's already happened in many other countries. Prime-time viewers used to be left in the dark about exactly what they were about to see and when, so they wouldn't channel-surf. Starting with the 2002 Salt Lake Games, NBC has been dropping more hints.

“After an irreverent cable TV skating show with Dick Button and Mary Carillo was a hit at the 2006 Torino Games, NBC's Beijing coverage has avoided being too earnest — even showing host Bob Costas outdoors.

“So now, NBC says there's no way that it will deviate from its routine of showing prime-time Olympic action on tape-delay in the Pacific and Mountain time zones — the regular formula it uses for entertainment shows — even if Michael Phelps is swimming for his eighth gold medal in Saturday's 4x100 medley relay. That's just not how they do things. When it comes to Olympic TV finally making sense, you need to be patient.”

When the Games end Sunday morning (Americans will see the Closing Ceremonies Sunday night hours after they’ve ended and many of the athletes will be on their way back to the United States) NBC will have had their Beijing expectations not only met but exceeded.

Neal told the USA Today’s Michael Hiestand NBC has been pretty happy with its Chinese hosts and story lines such as Michael Phelps. "I came to these Games with stratospheric expectations, and they've been exceeded," Neal says. "The planets were aligned."

Agreed the a great deal fell into place for NBC but the key was the table being set during the first week. The two marquee events from week one (swimming and gymnastics) where both held during the morning in Beijing – with the 12 hour time difference live in prime time on the American east coast. Sports makes for compelling television when it televised live. The last two Summer Olympics (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004) where offered on a tape-delay basis for the most part by NBC – that didn’t work in delivering record ratings numbers.

News earlier this week that ESPN/ABC and the Fox network are interested in bidding for the rights to the 2014 Winter Games (scheduled to be held in Sofia, Russia) and the yet to be awarded 2016 Summer Games could push the rights for the next available Olympic quadrennial to the stratosphere. The interest ESPN/ABC and Fox have in the Olympic Games doesn’t come as a surprise to industry insiders.

On June 7, 2003 The New York Times Richard Sandomir reported that: NBC Sports held on to its Olympic franchise by winning a three-way auction for the United States media rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games with a record bid of $2 billion. It was augmented by a nearly $200 million deal for General Electric, NBC's parent, to become a worldwide Olympic sponsor. The bid was made even though the sites for those Games have not yet been determined.

NBC outbid offers made by the News Corporation's Fox network and by ABC and ESPN, which are owned by the Walt Disney Company.

The price for TV rights exceeded by 33 percent the $1.5 billion that NBC paid for the 2006 and 2008 Olympics. Including the G.E. Olympic sponsorship deal, the bid at its maximum means that the Olympic committee will receive 47 percent more for the Games in 2010 and 2012 than in 2006 and 2008.

It remains to be seen which city will host the 2016 Summer Games. The right to host the 2016 Summer Games will be decided on October 9, 2009 (a little over a year from now), at the IOC Congress in Copenhagen Denmark.

Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo have been selected to the shortlist and will compete to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Baku, Doha and Prague were eliminated June 5, 2008. It remains to be seen where the 2016 Games will be held but logic (and money) dictates the 2016 Games will be held in Chicago. If an American city hosts the Summer Games for the first time since Atlanta Games in 1996. The IOC could generate as much as $3 billion for the 2014 Winter Games and 2016 Summer Games.

According to published reports when NBC reached their rights agreement for the next quadrennial NBC paid $820 million for the 2010 Winter Games and $1.18 billion for the 2012 Summer Olympics. G.E. sweetened its investment by becoming a worldwide Olympic sponsor (the TOP program), which will cost $160 million to $200 million.

Using those figures as a barometer if rights where awarded after the 2016 Games are awarded (unlikely but very possible) and the Games are awarded to Chicago the IOC could realize $1 billion for American rights to the 2014 Games and……$2 billion for the rights to the 2016 Chicago Games.

SBN’s belief that the 2016 Games are destined for Chicago – all one needs to do is follow the cookie crumbs the IOC has left. The 2012 Games are being held in London. Back-to-back Summer Games in Europe all but eliminates Madrid. The 2000 Games where held in Sydney, the 2008 Games in Beijing again it just doesn’t make sense to award another Summer Games to that geographical region. As for Rio de Janeiro – the Summer Games have never been held in South America, but the 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil. The IOC won’t award the Summer Games to the country that is playing host to the 2014 World Cup. That would be bad business.

The Olympics are a hot TV property again thanks to NBC. Under the leadership of Dick Ebersol the Olympics have become a stand and deliver property for NBC. Ebersol was named chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics in May 2005, after serving as chairman of NBC Sports & Olympics since June 1998. He is responsible for all sports programming on the NBC and USA networks, along with overseeing every aspect of NBC Universal’s involvement with the Olympic Games.

ESPN/ABC and Fox may be interested but all they’re going to do is push the price for the 2014 Games and 2016 Games up. At the end of the day as far as Dick Ebersol is concerned NBC has to have the Olympic Games. Thanks to the results NBC produced in Beijing Dick Ebersol will be ready and waiting for the IOC with a blank check when they come calling looking to sell the rights to the 2014 and 2016 Games.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The New York Times and the USA Today.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – catching up with Michael Phelps

When Sports Business News last visited Michael Phelps yours truly told The Wall Street Journal Nike would cast their eyes lovingly on Phelps and by the time their courtship with Phelps was over Phelps could sign a multi -year agreement with the sport industries biggest brand name in excess of $50 million. We’ll focus on why Nike, Speedo and Adidas are all destined to become involved in a bidding war for the swimmers services next week. Today we’ll catch up with the man who won eight gold medals in Beijing. It’s been a busy few days since Phelps claimed his eighth Beijing gold medal Saturday evening (Sunday morning) in Beijing.

"Michael Phelps is going to have no problem from here on out," said Scott Sanford, managing director at the Dallas-based Davie-Brown talent group in an ESPN report. "He will have star power."

"He has transcended himself into a position that is going to sustain him for a long time," Sanford said. "He has separated himself from just being a swimmer."

For Phelps Beijing was truly an all or nothing proposition. Win the eight gold medals and the world would be his. Win seven gold medals (or less) he’d have his 15 minutes of fame but his road wouldn’t be paved with gold.

"Marketing potential is such a tough question," Evan Morgenstein Mark Spitz’s wrote in an e-mail from Beijing to ESPN. "It's defined by whether he is thought of by performance or stature/story. If America believes his struggle to achieve eight golds has a broader good than just victories, he will earn millions of dollars forever."

The key remains for Phelps agents to strike while the iron is hot – leverage the opportunity their client has provided them with.

The August 25 edition of Sports Illustrated features a smiling Michel Phelps with his Beijing hardware draped around his neck. The cover reprises a 1972 Sports Illustrated cover that honored Mark Spitz after he won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games. It was back-to-back SI covers for Phelps. He was featured on the magazine’s August 18 edition cover as well. Now if that where it – everyone would be missing the big picture. SI’s July 28 Beijing preview edition cover had Phelps on its cover.

Three times in four weeks is amazing for any athlete. Phelps has also appeared on SI’s covers on February 3, 2005, August 23, 2004 and August 2, 2004 (SI’s Athens Olympic preview).

Phelps has left Beijing (he won’t be carrying the American flag in Sunday’s closing ceremonies). Phelps arrives in Baltimore today (he won’t be home very long). Phelps as one sports agent suggested might be well advised to remember his B-More roots.

"Some of the big companies like Octagon are very global and they have to be careful with that," said John Maroon, who runs a public relations firm in Baltimore and has worked with Ripken in various capacities for the past 13 years. "They have to be careful with that or it's going to reflect on Michael. His brand and his worth can just keep going and going. Baltimore is a town that really embraces its own if its own embraces it."

"Right now, it seems like the biggest thing in the world and we'll be talking about this for years and years," Maroon said. "I like Michael and I wish him the best, but the truth is that people move on.

"He needs to strike while the iron is hot."

London’s 2012 Olympics begin on July 27, 2012 and run through August 12, 2012. London Olympic organizing officials working with Visa (one of the International Olympic Committee’s TOP sponsors) has arranged for Phelps to be in London Sunday to participate in part of the official ‘handoff’ when Beijing’s mayor hands the Olympic flag to London’s mayor symbolizing the passing of the Olympic Games from Beijing to London.

Representatives of the 2012 team, including the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, will be in Beijing to collect the flag and be part of an eight minute section of the closing ceremony when London will look forward to the next Summer Games. David Beckham and singer Leona Lewis are rumored to be part of the ceremony.

Rumors aside – Michael Phelps will be front and center Sunday in London.

Phelps, who is the most successful Olympian of all time with 14 gold medals in total, said: "It will be a great opportunity to celebrate the success of the Beijing Games and kick off the countdown to London 2012."

Steven Levitt, whose company, Marketing Evaluations Inc., devises Q scores to measure celebrity appeal offered The Baltimore Sun a look at Phelps before he won eight gold medals.

Only 39 percent of those polled in March were familiar with Phelps and, of those, 22 percent considered him a favorite performer, Levitt said. Tiger Woods, for example, was familiar to 89 percent of those polled and viewed favorably by 48 percent of that group. Levitt expects Phelps' numbers to rise dramatically in next spring's study.

By surpassing Mark Spitz, Phelps transcended sport in a way that few athletes ever do. His story headlined national news broadcasts for a week. Celebrity news publications and programs such as US Weekly, Inside Edition and have taken an interest in his personal life. One posting on the movie-geek Web site Ain't It Cool News said Phelps should look into playing Marvel Comics' superhero Sub- Mariner. "He is a man from Atlantis," gushed the site's creator, Harry Knowles.

On another Internet frontier, more than 1 million people have signed up to be fans at Facebook.

Bob Dorfman, who makes a living looking at the marketing potential of Olympians for Baker Street Partners of San Francisco knows Phelps is the real deal.

"I can't see any other story surpassing his," Dorfman told The Baltimore Sun. "People just can't believe what he's been doing. There is a superhuman aspect to it. From that standpoint, he's hard to top."

"He is much bigger than his sport," said Dorfman, who could see Dancing With the Stars coming after Phelps or MTV building a new reality program around him.

"It could be Michael Phelps teaching other celebrities to swim like Olympians or I don't know what," Dorfman said. "But he's at the level where I could see people imagining stuff like that around him."

One deal that Phelps handlers have worked out since Saturday – Phelps is about to become best friends with Tony the Tiger.

Phelps can add one more milestone to the list. After earning eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympic Games, Michael Phelps has earned a place of honor on the front of specially-marked Kellogg's Frosted Flakes(R) and Kellogg's Corn Flakes(R) cereal boxes.

The gold medal winning Olympic champion from Baltimore, Maryland will be featured on Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal packages that are expected to hit grocery store shelves across the U.S. in mid-September. The boxes will feature images of Phelps during what were some of the most memorable moments of this summer's Olympic Games.

"As an Official Sponsor of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and a proud sponsor of Phelps, it is only fitting that Kellogg Company feature this world-class athlete on its iconic boxes of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereals," said Marta Cyhan, Vice President, Global Promotions, Kellogg Company. "Michael embodies the values behind our Frosted Flakes Earn Your Stripes(TM) program. He knows that winning is not just about the glory that comes with gold medals, but about good sportsmanship, working hard and being your best."

What makes this agreement “interesting” Phelps being married to Tony the Tiger as opposed to Wheaties. According to several published reports Michael passed on the traditional Wheaties box because his breakfast of champions is sugar-drenched Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.

Before Phelps left Beijing Tuesday he did take one final lap of a pool and of course it was linked to an endorsement agreement. And of course Phelps final Beijing swim wasn’t in the Games Water Cube.

The 16-time Olympic medalist took to the pool at the Hilton Beijing to swim the 6,250th and final lap of the "Hilton Swim to Beijing Relay," a multi-city charitable event contributing $100,000 to the USA Swimming Foundation to fund swim education programs across the United States.

In celebration of the 2008 Olympic Games, Hilton Hotels & Resorts partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation and embarked on an ambitious relay of 6,250 laps - each lap symbolizing one of the miles between Los Angeles, the relay's starting point, and Beijing. The "Hilton Swim to Beijing Relay" began with a splash at the Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles where Phelps swam the initial lap in November 2007. After making its way through five U.S. cities, the "Hilton Swim to Beijing Relay" concluded with a ceremonial final lap by Phelps in the pool of the Hilton Beijing following his final competition of the 2008 Olympic Games.
"After representing my country and competing in the Olympics, Hilton gave me another great reason to get back in the pool," said Phelps. "By being a part of this campaign I'm able to help support swim education programs across the nation and give young people the chance to experience the power of the sport. Swimming is much more than a fun activity and great form of exercise. It teaches self-discipline and dedication--two important qualities that one can draw on to succeed both in and out of the pool."

Phelps list of sponsors include:

Phelps' sponsors, according to his agents at Octagon, which declined to specify the value of the deals:

Speedo USA: maker of swimsuits, a licensed brand of the Warnaco Group Inc.

Visa Inc.: credit card company

Omega: luxury watchmaker, a unit of Swatch Group AG

Hilton Hotels Corp.: hotel chain

PowerBar: nutrition bar from Swiss chocolate maker Nestle SA.

AT&T Inc.: communications provider

Kellogg Co.: maker of Frosted Flakes, Cheez-Its and Eggo waffles

Rosetta Stone Ltd.: language-learning software maker

PureSport: sports performance beverage, made by Human Performance Labs Internet site for swimmers

In the four days since Phelps date with destiny arrived there remain plenty of naysayers who simply don’t believe Michael Phelps will enjoy long-term success in the corporate marketplace.

"It is possible but unlikely for the simple reason that swimming commands our attention only once every four years, while Tiger and LeBron enjoy weekly, even daily coverage during their respective seasons," said John Davis, a professor of marketing at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University in an MSNBC report. His book "The Olympic Games Effect — How Sports Marketing Builds Strong Brands" was published this month.

"Swimming is really not the topic of our typical sports conversations once the Olympics end, so sustained visibility will be a challenge for Phelps," Davis added. In fact, once the Olympic torch is extinguished, football — both college and pro — will dominate the national conversation.

At the same time, Davis notes, Phelps' accomplishments are so stupendous he will attract a slew of suitors.

"Companies that become sports sponsors, whether of athletes, teams or events, want to associate with greatness," he said. "We love good stories, and Michael Phelps is one of the best, so he is a natural attraction for companies."

All good points – and as Davis told MSNBC the key – Phelps being front and center enjoying and maximizing his new found fame.

"For Phelps to have staying power his agent needs to work overtime to place Michael on the various shows (Letterman, Leno, and so on) while, at the same time, not saturating the market with Phelps," he pointed out. "It is a tough balancing act."

The news – its all good for Michael Phelps, the time is now, the moment is right, time to ride his train bound for glory – sponsorship glory!!

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: CNBC, Forbes, The Baltimore Sun

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – What an Olympics for NBC

The Beijing Games end Sunday but for NBC the verdict is already in – gold medal coverage, gold medal ratings and gold medal advertising sales. The numbers are overwhelming.

Tuesday NBC reported that through 11 days, NBC Universal's Olympic coverage has reached 200 million people and more than 83 percent of all U.S. television homes. It has also delivered the most dominant margins of victory for any network in any primetime week in the history of Nielsen's People Meter sample, which dates back 21 years to September 1987.

Through just 11 days, the networks of NBC Universal already have reached 200 million total viewers, 12 million more than the first 11 days for Athens (188 million) and 4 million more than the Atlanta Games (196 million), which was the most-viewed television event in U.S. history. The 11-day total for these Games makes it the fourth most-viewed television event in U.S. history. Additionally, 94 million of the of the nation's 112.8 million television homes (83 percent) have tuned into the Olympics.

It’s not a matter of if, but when the Beijing Games will be recognized as the most watched Olympics in American history. Gander at these numbers as to why it’s a certainty Beijing has been a ratings winner for NBC:

1. 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, 209 million (17 days)
2. 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, 204 million (16 days)
3. 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, 203 million (17 days)
4. *2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, 200 million (*through 11 days)
5. 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, 194 million (17 days)

The key to remember is the statistics are based on the Beijing Games through the first 11 days with six days of numbers to be added.

Then factor in these numbers: For the week of August 11-17, NBC generated more than four times the household rating of the No. 2 network, and more than five times the total viewers of the No. 2 network to claim the biggest week-long wins in those categories for any network since Nielsen initiated its current People Meter sample in September 1987.

According to data provided by Nielsen Media Research, NBC averaged 28.7 million viewers overall and a 16.8 rating/28 share in households for the primetime week of August 11-17. Those averages were strong enough to deliver record margins over the week's No. 2 finishes of 463 percent in total viewers (28.7 million vs. CBS's 5.1 million) and 394 percent in households (16.8 vs. CBS's 3.4).

NBC also beat the combined ABC-CBS-Fox results in these categories and again by margins that are the biggest for any network in People Meter history, 143 percent in total viewers (28.7 million vs. 11.8 million) and 113 percent in household rating (16.8 vs. 7.9).

The Beijing Olympic 11-day average primetime viewership is 29.6 million, 13 percent ahead of Athens in 2004 (26.2 million). NBC's average of a 17.2 rating, 30 share in households is the best through the second Monday for a Summer Olympics outside the U.S. since Barcelona in 1992 (18.4/35) and is a nine percent jump from Athens in 2004 (15.8/28).

Monday night garnered 67 million total viewers in primetime and 26.4 million average viewers, a two percent gain from the comparable night in Athens (25.9 million). The night earned a 15.8 rating/26 share, which is off just four percent from Athens' comparable night (16.4/27) which featured the USA's Jeremy Wariner's gold medal in the 400m.

TAMI FOR SUNDAY: The TAMI (Total Audience Measurement Index) measures the 3600 hours of programming during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including Television (P2+ reach), Online (Unique Users), Mobile (WAP unique users and Mobile VOD unique users) and TV VOD (unique users). Below is the TAMI measurement through Sunday, Aug. 17:

Sunday, Aug. 17: 107.2 million
TV: 101.9 million, ONLINE: 4.8 million, MOBILE: 506k, TV VOD: n/a
Saturday, Aug. 16: 107.9 million
Friday, Aug. 15: 95.0 million
Thursday, Aug. 14: 101.4 million
Wednesday, Aug. 13: 100.9 million
Tuesday, Aug. 12: 105.0 million
Monday, Aug. 11: 103.1 million
Sunday, Aug. 10: 113.0 million
Saturday, Aug. 9: 97.8 million
Friday, Aug. 8: 74.6 million

And what a week it’s been for NBC. Now its fair to suggest Fox, CBS and ABC are running reruns (it may be made more sense to feature a test pattern) but numbers don’t lie – the first week of the Beijing Games made it a week to remember and then some for NBC and their parent company General Electric.

BC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games from Beijing has delivered the most dominant margins of victory for any network in any primetime week in the history of Nielsen's People Meter sample. For the week of August 11-17, NBC generated more than four times the household rating of the #2 network, more than five times the #2 total-viewer result and more than seven times the #2 adult 18-49 rating, to claim the biggest weeklong wins in those categories for any network since Nielsen initiated its current People Meter sample in September 1987. (Note that weekly averages have not been finalized by Nielsen and some minor adjustments may be made in official results for the week.)

According to in-home viewing figures from Nielsen Media Research, NBC averaged a 9.6 rating in adults 18-49, 28.7 million viewers overall and a 16.8 rating/28 share in households for the primetime week of August 11-17. Those averages were strong enough to deliver record margins over the week's #2 finishes of 638 percent in 18-49 (9.6 vs. 1.3 for second-place CBS), 463 percent in total viewers (28.7 million vs. CBS's 5.1 million) and 394 percent in households (16.8 vs. CBS's 3.4).

NBC also beat the combined ABC-CBS-Fox results in those three categories and again by margins that are the biggest for any network in People Meter history – 167 percent in 18-49 (9.6 vs. 3.6), 143 percent in total viewers (28.7 million vs. 11.8 million) and 113 percent in household rating (16.8 vs. 7.9).

NBC's 9.6 rating in 18-49 is the highest for any network outside the traditional television season since the week of September 18-24, 2000 (10.0 for NBC during the Sydney Summer Games). In both total viewers and households, NBC scored the top weeklong results for any network outside the traditional season since the week of July 29-August 4, 1996 (32.1 million viewers overall and a 21.4 household rating for NBC during the Atlanta Summer Games).

NBC's seven nights of primetime Olympics coverage claimed the top seven spots in the weekly program rankings in every key ratings category. Tuesday's telecast was the #1 program of the week in all key categories, including adults 18-49 (12.4/34) and total viewers (34.0 million).

NBC also soared on Saturday, when Michael Phelps claimed his record eighth gold medal of these Olympics and NBC delivered its biggest average audience for a Saturday program since a "Golden Girls" episode in February 1990.

Through 10 days, the networks of NBC Universal have reached 196 million total viewers who've watched at least a part of the Olympics coverage, 11 million more than the first 10 days for Athens (185 million) and 3 million more than the Atlanta Games (193 million), which was the most viewed television event in U.S. history. The 10-day total for these Games now surpasses the final overall viewership totals for the Barcelona Games (192 million) in 1992 and the Seoul Games (194 million) in 1988.

The Beijing Olympic 10-day average primetime viewership is 29.8 million, 14 percent ahead of Athens in 2004 (26.2 million). NBC's average of a 17.2 rating, 30 share in households is the best through the second Sunday for a Summer Olympics outside the U.S. since Barcelona in 1992 (18.6/35) and is a 9 percent jump from Athens in 2004 (15.8/28).

Primetime averages for the week of August 11-17 in adults 18-49 were NBC (a 9.6 rating), CBS (1.3), Fox (1.2), ABC (1.1) and CW (0.6). In overall total viewers the weekly averages were NBC (28.7 million), CBS (5.1 million), ABC (3.4 million), Fox (3.2 million) and CW (1.5 million).

Through 47 weeks of the 2007-08 season, Fox leads in primetime's key demographic of adults 18-49, with NBC now ranking #2 ahead of ABC and CBS. NBC is matching its year-ago rating in 18-49 while ABC is down 10 percent, CBS is down 19 percent and Fox is up 3 percent. Season-to-date averages in adults 18-49 for the period September 24, 2007 through August 17, 2008 are Fox (3.7), NBC (2.8), ABC (2.7), CBS (2.6) and CW (0.9).

NBC is the only major network that has not seen its audience get significantly older this season versus last and it is now the "second-youngest" of the major broadcast networks. Through the first 47 weeks of the 2007-08 season, NBC is running within 0.4 years of its median age from the prior season (48.8 years this season vs. 48.4 years last season). In this same comparison, ABC's median age has increased by 1.7 years (to 48.8 from 47.1 years old at this point last season), CBS's median age has increased by 0.8 years (to 53.3 from 52.5) and Fox's median age has increased by 1.4 years (to 43.9 from 42.5).

And it what shouldn’t come as a surprise where there are ratings numbers – advertising sales tend to follow: NBC Universal has sold $25 million in Olympic advertising since the start of the 2008 Beijing Games including an additional $15 million in the last seven days. This is on top of the more than $1 billion the network sold leading into the Games. The announcement was made today by Seth Winter, SVP Sales & Marketing, NBC Sports & Olympics.

"The Beijing Olympics have truly captivated the American public, generating record performance across all of our platforms," said Winter. "In addition to the ratings success, the Games have also provided a valuable environment for our advertisers to deliver their messages. The feedback from our partners has been tremendous and we're already actively engaged in discussion with many of them for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and London in 2012."

Winter cited continued interest in the movie, retail, packaged goods and pharmaceutical categories, among others. More than 100 companies have advertised during NBC's Olympic coverage.

NBC also today released the results of a Nielsen IAG study on the value of Olympic advertising. Among the findings are:

Traditional ads within the Olympics produced greater ad performance than ads airing outside of the Olympics

Brand recall in the Olympics reached levels that were up to 130 percent higher than those realized by other primetime programs

Message recall in the Olympics attained levels that were more than twice as high as scores in other primetime programs (Message Recall in the Olympics is 50% higher than the Academy Awards)

Ad likeability scores in the Olympics achieved levels that were nearly three times as high as performance in other primetime programs

Olympic-themed creative generated stronger brand message and likeability messaging than non-themed ads

"We've always known that the scale and unique qualities of the Olympics make it a singular sales and marketing platform," said Alan Wurtzel, President, Research, NBC Universal. "Now that we have been able to measure how effective advertising is on the Olympic platform, we are sharing the information with our marketing partners, and using it to optimize our sales efforts in Beijing and looking forward for Vancouver and London."

Here’s the most important statement – the bottom line. NBC paid $844 million for the rights to the Beijing Games. Additionally they spent an estimated $100 on production costs associated with their broadcasts cost. They’ve generated an estimated $1.035 billion in ad sales. Do the simple math. NBC dominates ratings, produces results for their Beijing Games advertisers makes money doing so – that’s Olympic gold

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – Liu Xiang the other side of Michael Phelps

Olympic athletes live the lives of one of the most noted quotes of all time: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” It happens once every four years – the world pays attention to runners, swimmers, jumpers, fencers, badminton players – the athletes who compete in the Summer Olympics. Once a generation, an athlete accomplishes what Michael Phelps managed to get done in Beijing. Phelps’ 15 minutes of fame will stretch for many years but for Olympians like Liu Xiang, sadly, it’s what have you done for me lately?

For many Chinese, Liu Xiang became the face of the Beijing Olympics. More than Yao Ming, more than the Chinese gymnists, more than the Chinese gold medal winning weight lifters. More than any other athlete in Beijing, Liu Xiang meant the world to the Chinese people and to the sports industries biggest sponsor Nike. All one has to do is to look back at Liu Xiang’s story to appreciate what could have been but now will never be – and how that will impact Nike.

Liu Xiang; born July 13, 1983 in Shanghai, China, is a Chinese 110 meter hurdler. Liu won Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games and won the 110m hurdles at the 2007 World Champion. His 2004 Olympic gold medal was China's first in the men's track and field event. He is the first Chinese athlete to achieve the "triple crown" of athletics (World Record Holder, World Champion and Olympic Champion). When the Beijing Games track completion began Friday Xiang was one of the few gold medalists the Chinese believed their athletes would win during the Games weeklong track and field events.

In May 2004 at an IAAF race in Osaka, Japan, Liu managed to beat American Allen Johnson with an Asian and personal best record time of 13.06 seconds. Liu had become his hero's (Johnson’s) rival just before the Athens Olympic Games.

Liu won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens in the 110 metre hurdles event, equaling Colin Jackson's 1993 world record of 12.91 seconds. This was also the first time an athlete of non-African descent had gone under 13 seconds for the 110 metre hurdles.

Liu also became the sixth man to post a time under 13 seconds for this event. The ecstatic Liu at once fulfilled the great promise he had shown in setting a world junior record two years earlier and raised the hopes of his compatriots for a repeat victory at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Liu said that his performance, which brought China its first men's Olympic gold medal in track and field, "changes the opinion that Asian countries don't get good results in sprint races. I want to prove to all the world that Asians can run very fast."

In his comments, Liu gave voice to his country's cultural stereotype, which judging from editorial comments in Chinese newspapers; he was not alone in believing. "I am a Chinese," he said, "and considering the physiology of the Chinese people, it is something unbelievable."

Liu, a 21-year-old student at East China Normal University at the time of his Athens victory, became the object of a bidding war between commercial sponsors. The Chinese Track and Field Association restricted him to four such deals. It’s a pretty good bet that in the years leading up to the Beijing Games Liu was the hottest and most marketable athlete scheduled to compete in Beijing. He may have been scheduled to compete in only one event but that one event represented a great deal to China’s 1.3 billion people.

To suggest Liu faced more pressure and scrutiny than any other athlete competing in the Beijing Games wouldn’t be an understatement. His event was one of the most anticipated in China, and indeed, his showdown with Cuban Dayron Robles was the event during the Beijing Olympics.

And then fate dealt a cruel blow to 1.4 billion people. In the biggest upset of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games for host country China, Xiang stumbled at the start of his qualifying heat in round one of the Men's 110m Hurdles on Monday morning. He later withdrew entirely from the event.

After Marcel van der Westen of the Netherlands in lane five made a false start, Liu then slipped off the blocks himself. When the athletes gathered at the start to get set a second time, Liu was conspicuously absent.

"A 110m Hurdles race without Liu is such a pity," Al-Thawadi said after the race. "I really wanted to be just next to Liu's lane because he's such a big champion. It's a great pity I lost an occasion to race with him. I hope he will come back soon."

At a press conference following the event, Liu's coach confirmed that the star's withdrawal was as a result of an injury to his right take-off foot, which has been affecting him for about six years. Liu reported on his own website Sunday that he was suffering from a sore Achilles tendon.

Liu's showdown with Dayron Robles, the Cuban who took away his world record earlier this summer, was one of the most eagerly-anticipated events of the Games.

Feng Shuyong, head coach of the Chinese Athletics team, said that he was very upset about Liu Xiang's withdrawal from the Olympic Men's 110m Hurdles on Monday morning.

The hurdler did not show up in the press conference after the race.

"After the Athens Olympics, the only target of Liu was to defend his title. He has worked very hard for achieving this goal," said Feng.

Feng remarked that Liu's injury "was old but controlled very well. That's the reason why Liu performed very well in competitions in the past years."

According to the coach, the injury to Liu's foot flared up last Saturday during training. "He was still confident of sprinting," said Feng.

In remarks to the press, Feng commended the star athlete, "He has strong mentality and has never given up in any case."

"Liu was very, very upset about the result. Liu said he would never give up as long as he can run," said Feng.

Nike one of Liu’s four key corporate partners told CNBC’s Darren Rovell (Rovell is in Beijing covering the Games for NBC) they would continue their plans to promote their association with the injured hurdler.

And as Rovell pointed out “This is the type of thing that makes Nike a leader in sports marketing. When the other sponsors privately cringe at the thought of one of their top guys going down, the folks at the Swoosh actually think, "How do we spend on this and turn it into a great human moment that appeals to people?"

The print ad, which will appear in The China Daily and a few local papers here in Beijing, will have Liu Xiang's face and will contain the following copy (in Mandarin):

Love competition.

Love risking your pride.

Love winning it back.

Love giving it everything you've got.

Love the glory. Love the pain.

Love sport even when it breaks your heart.

Just Do It.

Nike company spokesman, Derek Kent asked whether Liu's advertising value had declined, Kent said, "He's an icon here in China. He has a very bright future."

There are those however who believe Nike is making the best of what has become a lost leader for the sports shoe and apparel giant.

"If anybody takes a hit from it, it's certainly Nike, simply because they're all about performance, whereas the others are about brand image," Chris Renner said. "Nike's all about, you don't win silver, you lose gold. With that attitude, it's much tougher for them, because he was certainly the cornerstone for their program."

Tom Doctoroff, the North Asia chief executive of WPP Group's JWT ad agency, told The Wall Street Journal. Liu's withdrawal is a "big problem" for the brands that invested in him.

"Liu Xiang is an icon, and that icon did not come through," said Mr. Doctoroff, whose agency has made ads featuring Mr. Liu for Yili, the milk brand. "For one man to carry the burden of a nation, from a brand perspective, was never a smart thing to do."

Sponsoring an individual athlete is "like you are highly leveraged on one stock," said Marcus John, the managing director for sports-marketing company IMG Consulting in Asia.

Coca-Cola, Visa and China Mobile are Liu’s other major sponsors. According to an Associated Press report Liu's endorsements have made him one of China's richest athletes, bringing in 163 million yuan (US$23.8 million) last year, according to Forbes magazine. He ranked No. 2 on its list of China's most powerful celebrities, behind basketball star Yao Ming.

Remember Michael Phelps’ nine sponsors paid the Baltimore native an estimated $5 million last year – and Phelps won six gold medals at the 2004 Athens Games and no one was that surprised after Phelps won eight gold medals during the first week of the Beijing Games.

"His marketing value has been seriously diminished," said Chris Renner, president for China of sports marketing agency Helios Partners in an Associated Press report.

"If anybody takes a hit from it, it's certainly Nike, simply because they're all about performance, whereas the others are about brand image," he said. "Nike's all about, you don't win silver, you lose gold. With that attitude, it's much tougher for them, because he was certainly the cornerstone for their program."

Michael Phelps is leaving Beijing as the face of the Games as the most marketable athlete leaving the Games. Heading into the Games Liu represented that and a great deal more to Nike and his sponsors. Liu was a Chinese athlete, representing China, competing at the first Olympic Games being held in China who beat the Americans and the world at their own game(s).

“Liu Xiang represents the dreams of all the Chinese,” said Terry Rhoads, managing director at Zou Marketing, a Beijing sports marketing consultancy in a New York Times report. “He’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime athletes.”

“We started supporting him in 2003 and we’ll continue to support him. This won’t change anything,” said Kenth Kaerhoeg, a spokesman for Coca-Cola.

Visa issued a similar statement late Monday, saying: “This is extraordinarily disappointing for Liu Xiang. We have great sympathy for him and wish him a speedy recovery. Nothing will ever take away his performance in Athens. He will always remain a great Chinese icon and a friend of Visa.”

Be honest what else would anyone expect Nike, Coca-Cola and Visa to say in the hours after the world’s most populated country dealt with the pain and suffering of Liu Xiang.

“Liu Xiang’s dropping out aroused wide sympathy; it was quite moving,” says Zheng Suhui, who works at the brand institute at the Communication University of China in Beijing in a New York Times report. “I think the public will understand him and respect him. So in this sense, his sponsors won’t stop his advertisement campaigns. Nike, Coca-Cola, these big brands must be smart enough to hold him for at least several months because Liu Xiang’s commercial value is still there. He is presenting the image of the great hero, who sacrifices himself for the nation.”

Again what Suhui is saying makes perfect sense but at the end of the day is it reasonable to expect Nike, Coca-Cola and Visa to continue investing tens of millions of dollars in an athlete who due to an injury didn’t deliver in Beijing?

It may have been the prudent decision the three companies made Monday but in the months and years to come watch for that money to find its way to Michael Phelps.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: CNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press

Monday, August 18, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – Michael Phelps the Beijing Games Marketing Machine – his lasting legacy

The months and days that led to the Games opening ceremonies on August 8 positioned the Games of the 29th Olympiad as one that would be plagued by story lines that would take the focus away from the athletes. Media censorship, pollution, a global torch relay that was plagued by protests and arrests in many world capitals and failed human rights promises made by the Chinese government in the years took the focus far away from athletic achievement.

There was a real possibility the Beijing Games were going to turn into a political circus. There was a real possibility the Beijing Games were going to embarrass the International Olympic Committee. There was a real possibility the Beijing Games were going to have a tremendous negative impact on how the IOC conducted their business affairs for many years. There was a real possibility the Beijing Games were going to hurt the image of the IOC’s major sponsors for many years to come.

All that changed in the space of seven days when Michael Phelps stunned the world by winning eight gold medals in Beijing. All that changed when a Baltimore, Maryland native showed the world the Olympic Games stand as a platform to athletic achievement. There are other athletes that have and athletes that accomplish a great deal in Beijing but none will come close to having the lasting legacy Michael Phelps will have on the Games of the 29th Olympiad and on the Olympic movement. It’s not far fetched to suggest Michael Phelps saved the Olympics from implosion.

Phelps currently generates in excess of $5 million annually in endorsements. Octagon that have represented Phelps since he turned professional when he was 16 positioned most of Phelps current sponsor agreements to either end in the next 12 months. An Octagon spokesman said his sponsors were credit card company Visa Inc., Speedo, watch maker Omega, AT&T Wireless, energy food company PowerBar. Kellogg's, Rosetta Stone, and PureSport.

Noticeably missing from Phelps list – Nike. There has been a great deal of focus throughout the Beijing Games on Nike vs. Adidas and how the two have faced off throughout the Beijing Games in terms of receiving bang for their sponsorship buck. Speedo focus on swimwear and swimwear apparel. Nike remains an athletic shoe and sportswear brand.

Would Nike love to have Michael Phelps join their stable of athletes – there’s no doubt Nike is going to offer Michael Phelps tens of millions of dollars to entice him to move from Speedo to Nike. But what choice does Speedo have but to offer Phelps tens of millions of dollars more than Nike will offer Phelps. Michael Phelps is the biggest brand in swimming history. For Speedo to let Michael Phelps sign with Nike will be a sign for Speedo to wave the white flag and surrender to Nike. Is Michael Phelps worth tens of millions of dollars to Speedo? Would it make sense for Speedo to invest tens of millions of dollars in Michael Phelps? The answer to both questions is a resounding no. Michael Phelps is worth millions of dollars to Speedo, but Michael Phelps has positioned himself to generate tens of millions of dollars from his sportswear apparel agreement because of what he has accomplished. Case closed!!

There are many industry insiders who do not believe Michael Phelps will generate anywhere close to the dollars he will generate.

"There will be a rapid descent in interest," said Paul Swangard, head of the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center in a Chicago Tribune report. "Within a few weeks, we'll have the NFL and college football and the homestretch of baseball."

What Swangard fails to point out – Peyton Manning has tremendous brand recognition in the United States but Michael Phelps is a global brand. Manning will earn much more money in the United States but Phelps overall endorsements will top Manning globally.

"Olympic athletes by and large have very short cycles in which they can generate revenues as sponsors," said Marc Ganis, president of Sportscorp, a Chicago-based consulting firm.

Again a fair point but consider this gem from a Los Angeles Times report: it's been 24 years since Mary Lou Retton's golden moment at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, yet 75% of Americans still recognize her name, according to Davie Brown Talent, a division of Marketing Arm, a Dallas-based promotions agency. In contrast, only 10% recognize Carly Patterson, who won the all-around gold in 2004 at Athens. Phelps has Mary Lou Retton brand power and a great deal more.

Ganis – understands Michael Phelps is your average Olympian.

"He's reached a level that no Olympic athlete has ever achieved," Ganis told The Denver Post. "I could see over four years him making $40 to $50 million. Those are big, big numbers."

"He's not going to just fall into a black hole" after Beijing, said Scott Sanford, an executive with Marketing Arm. "I think after the Games you'll see him have sustainability. And don't forget, he'll be competing in London in 2012."

Michael Phelps works on so many levels important levels when it comes to selling and marketing an athlete. Success and the image and feel of an All-American kid.

"The image of (Phelps) cheering the relay? I think it did more for him than any single moment," said Steve Sander, of Sander Marketing Group in Denver. "His individual accomplishments stand on their own, but that human side of him is most appealing.

"Just the idea of cheering so hard for his teammates transcends what sports are all about. It transcends that he's not only a great competitor but a great teammate."

And best of all – just ask Michael Phelps how he feels about making money from his fame. He made that clear a few days ago in Beijing.

"I'm not in it for the money," he said. "I'm in it because I love what I do. It was something I dreamed of as soon as I started swimming: winning an Olympic gold medal. And in Athens I was able to do that. I've been able to surpass my goals.

"I'm having fun at what I do, and I do it because I love it. I'm living sort of a dream world. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to see if it's really real.

"And I'm just happy I'm in the real world."

That not to suggest Michael Phelps isn’t paying attention. In the moments leading up to winning his gold medal in Friday’s men’s 100m butterfly NBC’s cameras picked up iPod earphones dangling from the 23-year old ears.

"Obviously, the guy's perfect for iPod; it's always in his ear," said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of San Francisco's Baker Street Partners. "Any kind of video games; I hear he's a big video game player. Something automotive – he really hasn't delved into that. Vitaminwater. Any type of energy drink seems to be a nice fit, anything water-based that way. Obviously fast food: The guy's got this incredible appetite, I don't know if you've seen what he eats. He eats, like, a dozen eggs a day – just being the spokesperson for, you know, the Egg Board makes a lot of sense.

"If anyone can keep the momentum going, in 2009, and '10, and '11," he said, "it would be Phelps."

But it’s that All-American boy next door that will push Phelps earning power to between $50 million and $100 million during the next four years leading up to the 2012 London Games.

"He's good-looking, healthy, vital, pure. It's sort of a clich̩ of what America is about," said Eli Portnoy, Los Angeles-based chief brand strategist for The Portnoy Group. "In that sense, he represents a gold mine to marketers ... this guy kind of comes out of the blue and sort of says, when we were an innocent land, and things were simpler and less complex Рthis is the image America had. Beyond being an athlete, he conveys the possibility that America can be that kind of place again."

One group that must be sad to realize Phelps won’t be swimming again in Beijing – NBC. Saturday night as he did every night he swam for Olympic gold, Phelps delivered both in the pool and with tremendous ratings numbers for NBC.

NBC's broadcast of the Olympics last night was the most viewed Saturday night program (31.1 million) on NBC since 1990, when Michael Phelps was four years old. On the night when Phelps, now considered the greatest Olympian of all-time, won his unprecedented eighth gold medal of these Games and record 14th career Olympic gold medal, the audience peaked at nearly 40 million viewers in the 11:00 p.m. half-hour during the Men's 4x100 medley relay.

"The mystery of China combined with the unbelievable phenomenon of Michael Phelps, the terrific performances by gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson and defending Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh at beach volleyball have captivated the imagination of the country," said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics and Executive Producer of NBC's Olympic coverage.

NBC's 31.1 million viewers for last night's broadcast represents the best Saturday night viewership of a program on the network since Michael Phelps was four-years-old. The "Golden Girls" spin-off "Empty Nest" starring Richard Mulligan drew 31.4 million viewers on Feb. 24, 1990.

Through nine days NBCU has reached 191 million total viewers, 14 million more than the first nine days for Athens (177 million) and 5 million more than the Atlanta Games (186 million), which was the most viewed television event in U.S. history. The nine-day total for these Games now surpasses the final overall 17-day viewership totals for the Salt Lake City (187 million) and Sydney (185 million).

NBC's Beijing Olympic nine-day average primetime viewership is 30.1 million, 15 percent ahead of Athens in 2004 (26.2 million). NBC's average of 17.4 rating/30 share is the best through the second Saturday for a Summer Olympics outside the U.S. since Barcelona in 1992 (18.6/35) and is a 10 percent jump from Athens in 2004 (15.8/28).

Saturday night garnered 70 million total viewers in primetime and 31.1 million average viewers, a 38 percent gain from the comparable night in Athens (22.5). The night earned a 17.6 rating/32 share, which represents a 29 percent increase (13.6/26).

THE PHELPS PHENOMENON: Michael Phelps, over the last nine days has become the most decorated Olympian in history and the biggest star in the Beijing Games to date. NBC's broadcast peaked last night with 39.9 million viewers during the 11:00 p.m. half hour, as the U.S. team won the 4x100m medley relay, giving Phelps his eighth gold medal of the games. Below is what NBC's Bob Costas, Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines have said about Phelps:

COSTAS: "What Phelps provided in Beijing was more than just sustained excellence. He provided the kind of theater that none of us will soon, if ever, forget."

HICKS: "That is the kind of feat that just may never be surpassed and certainly one of the greatest feats of sports history."

GAINES: "The sport of swimming will never be the same. The name Michael Phelps will be synonymous with perfection."

Building a $100 million endorsement potential will in part be helped by the United States Olympic Committee who Sunday made it clear – they’re at the head of the Phelps Phan club.

Statement from U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth: "An extraordinary chapter in Olympic history has been written here in Beijing by one of the greatest athletes of all time. We could not be more proud of Michael, in the manner by which he competed, represented our country, and represented the Olympic Movement. The fact that his eighth medal was won in a team relay signifies Michael's commitment not only to his own quest, but to the importance of teamwork and representing his country."

Statement from U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr: "It is fitting that at one of the most significant events of our generation, we have witnessed one of the greatest performances in Olympic history. Michael's record-breaking performance during these Games will inspire millions of people around the world to reach for their goals and aspire to greatness. He is an example of the very best values of the Olympic Movement and our country."

And yes a grateful President Bush called Phelps soon after he won his eighth gold medal.

The White House says Bush told Phelps: "If you can handle eight gold medals, you can handle anything."

Bush called Phelps on Sunday morning from his Texas ranch. A white House spokesman says Bush told Phelps that he and first lady Laura Bush were proud of the swimmer's achievements and that he handled himself with "humility."

And the president told Phelps to give his mom a big hug for him.

Phelps mother Debbie was front and center throughout his date with destiny – something that wasn’t lost on one of the USOC’s sponsors.

As part of the JOHNSON'S(R) Olympic Games campaign, "Thanks, Mom," the company has designated Debbie Phelps, mother of 15-time Olympic medalist and 13-time Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps, its official "JOHNSON'S(R) Baby Mom of the Olympic Games."

To celebrate this honor, JOHNSON'S(R) will donate money in Ms. Phelps's name to a group of its global children's charities and earthquake relief projects (

"Behind every champion there's a mother and what better way to honor moms everywhere than to name Debbie Phelps 'JOHNSON'S(R) Baby Mom of the Olympic Games'," said Bridgette Heller, Global President of JOHNSON'S(R) Babycare. "Debbie represents every mother that has helped her child to succeed whether in simply learning how to take those first steps or winning Olympic gold. We are thrilled to partner with her to celebrate and thank moms around the world."

"It is a wonderful honor to be named 'JOHNSON'S(R) Baby Mom of the Olympic Games'," said Debbie Phelps. "As I look back, one of the hardest things I had to do with raising my son and both my two daughters was to trust they would be okay without me always by their side as they grew older. Like all mothers, we just want our children to be happy, safe and to excel in what they enjoy most. And as a mom, we do everything we can to make that possible."

This special recognition builds on a comprehensive campaign, which is part of Johnson & Johnson's company-wide Beijing 2008 Olympic Games sponsorship. Currently, JOHNSON'S(R) is running a series of national television advertising showcasing 2008 U.S. Olympians including recent Olympic champion Cullen Jones, who played an instrumental role in helping to secure a gold medal in the men's 4 x 100 relay team. The spots celebrate the special relationship the athletes have with their mothers, providing viewers with an unscripted peek into a personal side of their lives that they rarely witness. Longer versions of the TV spots run online at or

How much might Michael Phelps eight gold medals be worth in terms of dollars? As much as $1 billion, likely somewhere near $500 million.

In the next quadrennial Phelps should generate between $150 million and $200 million (the key will be Nike and Speedo creating a bidding war for Phelps). Assuming he competes in the London Games and wins five to eight gold medals he’ll likely realize an additional $200 million in the following four years.

Factoring in the $20 million to $25 million he’s made since he turned professional as a 16-year old and Phelps will have earned more than $400 million by the time the 2016 Games arrive. If Phelps decides to compete in the 2016 Games (he’ll be 31) and those Games are awarded to Chicago – Michael Phelps could come close to becoming the first Olympian to earn $1 billion as a result of his success in the Olympic Games.

Michael Phelps is a once in a life-in-a generation athlete. Michael Phelps is a once-in-a lifetime athlete. Enjoy Michael Phelps while you can – his likeness isn’t likely going to come this way again. Michael Phelps the very best of what we can be as an athlete. Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian ever!!!!

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Toronto Star and The Denver Post

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – Michael Phelps the Beijing Games Marketing Machine – the legacy

Michael Phelps date with destiny arrived Saturday night (Sunday morning technically) in Beijing. Phelps won his eighth Olympic Gold medal in the men’s 4x100 relay. Over the last seven days Michael Phelps has made the impossible happen – winning eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games. In winning the eight gold medals, Phelps was either set or was part of seven new world records.

He has now won 14 gold medals in the last two Summer Olympic Games. Phelps will turn 27 when the 2012 London Games take place. By the time London comes calling Michael Phelps could easily top 20 career Olympic gold medals. Indeed when it comes to Michael Phelps all that glitters is gold and he’s created his own stairway to heaven.

In winning his eighth gold medal in one Olympic Games Speedo paid Phelps a $1 million bonus for toping the record of seven gold medals won in one Olympic Games first set my Mark Spitz at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Phelps tied that record Friday night when he won the men’s 100M butterfly in stunning, unbelievable, remarkable fashion.

Phelps was seventh at the turn (the race is only two laps of the pool), more than six-10ths of a second behind Serbia's Milorad Cavic. He was half a body length behind with 25 meters to go. He was still in midair when Cavic was at the finish.

And yet somehow, Phelps got his hand on the wall first to win by a hundredth of a second, setting an Olympic record (50.58), equaling the standard for most victories at one Games, which countryman Mark Spitz set in 1972 in Munich, and picking up a $1 million bonus from sponsor Speedo.

"When I took that last stroke, I thought I lost the race there, but it turns out that was the difference," said Phelps. "I'm at a loss for words."

Michael Phelps may be a loss for words but the nine companies who invested in Phelps will have a lot to say (with Phelps) in the coming days and weeks. Phelps has agreements with nine corporate partners. Currently the face of the 2008 Summer Games generates more than $5 million annually in sponsorship and endorsement opportunities. His biggest contract (with Speedo) is up for renewal next year. Time for Michael Phelps to cash in his chips – there is no way Speedo will allow the worlds most recognizable swimmer and the biggest name to emerge from the Beijing Games to sign a swimwear contract with any other manufacturer.

Phil de Picciotto the president of Octagon, the sports marketing firm that has represented Phelps since he became a professional athlete shortly after the 2000 Sydney Games when he turned 16, knows it will be important for Octagon to capitalize on Michael Phelps success right now.

"The partnerships that are established during that short window of their athletic performance excellence can be sustained over decades if the relationships are maintained and if the business works for both sides. So without being able to put a number on it, over time it's certainly possible that this will go from the tens of millions into the hundreds millions."

One issue de Picciotto and the gang at Octagon are going to have to consider in looking at Phelps in the corporate marketplace – over exposure. With nine current sponsors does Phelps run the risk of having to many products he endorses?

"The way that Michael's partnerships are taken into the public--the audiences for purchasing the services and products that Michael is supporting -- are very different...

"So we're very careful not only about the quantity, but also of the delivery into the marketplace.”

An Octagon spokesman said his sponsors were credit card company Visa Inc., Speedo, watch maker Omega, AT&T Wireless, energy food company PowerBar. Kellogg's, Rosetta Stone, and PureSport.

Of course, whether Michael Phelps -- now the face of the 2008 Olympics -- becomes the next Tiger Woods in the lucrative world of sports marketing may require a true Olympian effort.....because as big as Phelps is now, he's a superstar in a sport that captures the world's attention only every four years.

There are those industry insiders (present company included) who believe Michael Phelps may indeed become the first billion dollar Olympian.

"He's the greatest Olympian in the world and he'll be able to earn money everywhere as he's an international brand," Australia-based celebrity agent Max Markson told Reuters.

"He's a billion dollar man. He won't have to get a job ever. He can live off this for 50 years."

That will be the key – Phelps being positioned as an international brand. He’ll have tremendous earning power in the United States, more than any other American Olympian has ever enjoyed but in the United States he’ll be competing with Tiger Woods and athletes with bigger platforms (Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning and Alex Rodriguez among others).

Eli Portnoy, chief brand strategist at the Portnoy Group, a U.S. consultancy specialized in branding, told Reuters he doubted Phelps -- or any Olympian -- would match the earning power of Woods who is estimated to become the first billionaire athlete by 2010. Those sentiments aside – Portnoy did suggest Phelps would earn more than $30 million (at least short term) as a result of his unbelievable accomplishments in Beijing.

"In the heat and intensity of this event it may seem that his earning power is limitless, but you have to pull back and look at someone like Tiger Woods who has performed at a top level for years and years in front of the world," he said.

"The Olympics is only held once every four years. After a year to so Americans forget about the Olympics and move to stars they see more. Kids want someone else on their Wheeties box."

One of the best examples in recent memory of a sponsor and the athlete they endorse working together was the commercial spot Visa ran moments after Phelps won his fourth gold medal in Beijing. Halfway to his date with destiny – Phelps fourth Beijing gold represented the 10th gold medal of his Olympic career – more career Olympic gold medals than any other Olympian in history. During NBC’s first commercial break after Phelps won his 10th gold Visa ran a 30 second commercial spot congratulating Phelps on his accomplishment.

"You need to be out there early and establish your affiliation with the property, Michael Phelps," said Michael Lynch, head of global sponsorship management at Visa whose relationship with Phelps dates back to 2002.

"His performance here will benefit us as it will add to the visibility we will get through this affiliation ... and his earning ability will increase, there's no question of that."

The key as was noted earlier – ensuring that Phelps doesn’t saturate the marketplace.

"In the short term, he is a gold mine because he represents everything that is pure, young, strong and visionary about America. We haven't had anyone of this significance since Mark Spitz," said Portnoy.

"Guaranteed there will be marketers wanting a piece of him that make no sense and it will interesting to see how his handlers cope with this and if they get greedy because the Olympics has a narrow avenue of marketability."

Nonetheless along with Octagon renegotiating with Phelps on a current agreement in the next few months – there are several interesting sponsorship categories that Phelps currently doesn’t have any affiliation with.

Months after he returned home from the Athens Games, in November 2004 Phelps was arrested on a DUI change and later pleaded guilty to driving while impaired; got 18 months probation.

The biggest sports category sponsorship remains beer companies. Would Anheuser-Busch (the biggest of the beer company sports sponsors) consider an endorsement agreement with Michael Phelps – again an athlete convicted of a DUI charge?

"Obviously, we would look at the total picture--the total character," Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch's vice president of sports marketing told CNBC’s Darren Rovell earlier this week. "His determination, inspiration, what he's doing, you know you would put all the into that decision making."

When Rovell pressed him again if he'd seriously consider Phelps he said, "You have to consider it. He's a tremendous talent and one little incident should not overshadow what he is an individual."

One opportunity Phelps won’t be able to enjoy after the Games – a post Olympic tour featuring his athletic ability being showcased.

Olympic gymnists Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel And Paul Hamm Plus The Men And Women Of Team USA To Unite After Beijing For The 2008 Tour Of Gymnastics Superstars

Just back from China, the country’s most celebrated gymnasts including reigning World Champion Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin winner of the woman’s overall in China, and 2005 All-Around World Champion Chellsie Memmel, will join Paul Hamm, Morgan Hamm, Shannon Miller, Blaine Wilson and the U.S. gymnastics team for The 2008 Tour of Gymnastics Superstars. A nationally televised special airing on MyNetwork TV on September 19th from 8:00-10:00pm (EST) will kick off the two month trek across the United States bringing world class gymnastics and music from Disney’s hottest young recording artists.

The 34 city tour begins September 7 in Reno and ends November 16 in Kansas City.

Following most Winter Olympic Games similar tours feature figure skaters. Speedo is expected to showcase Phelps during a multi-city goodwill speaking tour, but if Americans want to see Phelps at his very best (in a swimming pool) the 2009 World Championships in Rome or the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai.

Monday in the final part of our seven part look at the Beijing marketing machine that is Michael Phelps Sports Business News will take a look at the naysayers who despite his Olympic success Michael Phelps will not generate a great deal of post Beijing marketing success and how Michael Phelps may have saved the Beijing Olympics – from itself.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: CNBC’s Darren Rovell and Reuters.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – Michael Phelps the Beijing Games Marketing Machine V

All that glitters is gold when it comes to Michel Phelps and while he may not be buying a stairway to heaven, Michael Phelps future includes millions of dollars in endorsements. Today in part V of Sports Business News week long Michael Phelps series SBN will focus at Phelps relationship with Speedo as part of the look at the marketing machine that is Michael Phelps and take a look at the world wide interest in Michael Phelps.

Seven gold medals and counting. Michael Phelps date with destiny – winning eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games continued unabated Friday night (Saturday morning in Beijing) when America’s Golden Boy won his seventh gold medal of the Beijing Games in the stunning men’s 100M butterfly. Unless the unthinkable happens the world will be celebrating the Greatest Olympian ever by 10:00 PM New York time Saturday when Phelps swims in his final event in Beijing the men’s 4x100 relay.

Much has been made of Speedo’s LZR RACER before the start of the Beijing Games. Announced on February 14, 2008 virtually every Beijing swimming medalist wore Speedo’s revolutionary designed swimsuit. When Speedo made their announcement on Valentine’s Day – their most important athlete was all over the company’s press release. Phelps was the only athlete quoted in the media release.

"When I hit the water, I feel like a rocket", says Michael Phelps, holder of six World records, who has been involved in the development and will be sporting the LZR RACER as he sets out to achieve a world record breaking 8 gold medals later in these Olympics. "I can' wait to race in it, this is going to take the sport of swimming to a new level"

His comments, echoed by other elite swimmers, are gratifying for Speedo's research and development team, Aqualab, who have spent more than three years in intensive research and development to create their most hydro-dynamically advanced swimsuit to date.
Speedo scanned the bodies of more than 400 elite swimmers and held technical tests involving more than 100 different fabrics and suit designs in the world's leading flume and test centres. Their quest to enable swimmers to swim faster than ever before, took them all over the world from the NASA Langley Research Centre to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Otago University in New Zealand and working with Ansys CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) software, a technology used in F1 motor racing and Americas Cup yachting.

Phelps relationship with Speedo began before the 2004 Athens Games. As will be the case later today when Phelps date with destiny arrives at the 2008 Beijing Games, Speedo offered Phelps a $1 million bonus if he won eight gold medals at the 2004 Games. Again he’ll collect that overdue $1 million bonus later tonight.

And the $1 million bonus Speedo will be paying Phelps later tonight – unlike similar promotions which company’s often purchase insurance to help defray the costs, Speedo according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell wasn’t able to buy insurance.

Craig Brommers, Speedo's vice president of marketing, confirmed to CNBC Wednesday that the company doesn't have any insurance to cover the bonus.

Brommers said that in Athens, Speedo's bonus was insured so that if Phelps -- who eventually won six gold medals and two bronze medals -- did win seven gold medals, the company would have only forked over about $300,000.

But Phelps' performance since then has made it hard for any insurance company to see much of an upside in insuring the deal this time around.

"Unfortunately, due to Michael's performance at the Melbourne World Championships and the probability that he might reach that million dollar bonus, Speedo was unable to secure insurance this time around," Brommers said.

He said the company didn't exhaustively try to insure it, believing that the premium this time around would have been closer to 90 percent.

Phelps wore a new Speedo swimsuit for every single race (he swam in a total of 17) in Beijing.

Speedo realized how great Phelps would be after he won six gold medals in Athens. In March 2005 Brandweek’s Sandra O'Loughin offered a peak at how Speedo positioned Phelps in relationship to Phelps.

The 2005 apparel collection targets men and women ages 18-34 who shop at better department stores such as Marshall Field's, Robinsons-May and Nordstrom. Initial shipments include men's casual swimwear and performance underwear, with activewear and shoes to follow in the fall. The women's activewear collection is already in-store. As part of a $3 million print campaign, handled in-house, ads for the women's apparel recently launched starring Olympic gold medalist Amanda Beard.

Print for the men's collection will run in April and May issues of GQ and Men's Health. It features a buff-looking Phelps wearing casual board shorts instead of his more familiar competition-style Speedo swimsuit, staring intently at a comely bikini-clad model. Splashes of water across the ad serve as reminders of Speedo's aquatic heritage.

The campaign is the first by the brand, outside of its sports marketing efforts, in seven years. Additional advertising, possibly including billboards and grass roots marketing in key urban areas, is slated for the fall. Support includes in-store events and POP.

"We consider Axcelerate a fusion between fashion and sport, and we've taken something very authentic to the brand, which is Olympic hero Michael Phelps, and tied him into a more fashion-focused situation that consumers may find surprising," said Craig Brommers, Speedo vp-marketing. "It's authentic and aspirational. Fashion, sports and entertainment are melding like never before. It's an area we are continuing to explore."

Joyce Julius & Associates, which measures sponsorship values, estimates that more prime-time airtime has been devoted to Michael Phelps than any other single athlete competing in Beijing through the first week of the Games. Speedo logos on Phelps’ warm-up jacket, swim cap and bodysuit have landed the brand 2:24 of airtime and $3.6 million, while highlights of Phelps’ storied career have also led to TV time for adidas and Visa.

Saturday night the Baltimore Ravens will play an NFL preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium. Phelps nicknamed the Baltimore Bullet in some circles was born and raised in the Baltimore area.

The Ravens are encouraging ticket holders at M&T Bank Stadium to stay after the Ravens vs. Vikings game on Saturday and salute hometown hero Michael Phelps. NBC has allowed the Ravens to air Phelps’ final race of the Beijing Olympics on the stadium SmartVision boards.

Throughout the Ravens game, ticket holders will be encouraged to stay for the post-game and watch Phelps swim live on the SmartVision boards. At the conclusion of the football game, fans will be directed to Section 140, located in the West end zone of the lower seating bowl. Ravens staff will be stationed near Section 140 to assist fans in picking up copies of b, Baltimore's new free daily newspaper, which will contain a poster with words of encouragement for Phelps. Fans will be asked to hold up this salute to Phelps prior to his swim.

Phelps potentially could be swimming for his eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games, which would break the 36-year-old record of seven golds in a single Olympics, set by Mark Spitz. Phelps will swim for the record-tying seventh gold Friday night.

“All of us are excited about what Michael is accomplishing, and it will be fun to salute him in this way,” Gabrielle Dow, the Ravens’ vice president of marketing, said.

Before Saturday night's game, fans can also visit the area on RavensWalk outside M&T Bank Stadium and record a video message to Michael Phelps. The well-wishes will appear on before kickoff.

Crain’s New York Business Friday reported that New York literary agent Scott Waxman invited publishers last week to bid on a memoir by the 23-year-old world record breaking swimmer, who has become a global sensation in Beijing.

A two-page proposal from the agent promised “eight chapters for eight races,” according to a publishing executive. Mr. Phelps is aiming to come away from Beijing with eight gold medals, which would break Mark Spitz’s record of seven. The plan is to have the title out in time for Christmas.

The agent set a $1 million floor for the bidding, and wanted offers right away, which suggested to some publishers that he already had an offer.

Others questioned whether Mr. Waxman is actually representing Mr. Phelps or is just looking to make a deal that he could then bring to the swimmer. Publishers also wondered how much interest there would be in the book.

Mr. Phelps has already published a memoir, Michael Phelps: Beneath the Surface, written with Sports Illustrated veteran scribe Brian Cazeneuve. That title came out in 2005 and sold only 9,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70% of the market.

“No books by great Olympians have done well, except for Greg Louganis’,” said an insider who decided not to bid on the new memoir.

An updated paperback edition of Michael Phelps: Beneath the Surface is listed on with a July 1, 2008 publication date. But a customer representative for the publisher, Sports Publishing, said the book is not available and no date has been set for when it will be.

Phelps along with James Bond and a handful of other ‘personalities’ has the designation of being an Omega Ambassador (there are a total of 13 and the list also includes retired Olympic gold medal swimmer Australian Ian Thorpe) Phelps relationship with Omega (one of the IOC’s 12 TOP sponsors) dates back to the 2004 Athens Games.

And Michael Phelps has become a global phenomenon.

Phelps' feats have drawn banner headlines across the world, including in regions and countries where swimming normally gets scant attention, with newspapers and commentators tripping over each other for superlatives and nicknames:

"The barracuda from Baltimore," said Chile's largest newspaper, El Mercurio.

"The New Olympic Legend," blared Egypt's El Badeel.

"The American dolphin," wrote Spain's El Pais.

"The God of Olympia," intoned France's Nouvel Nouvel Observateur.

"The water man from another planet," hailed Denmark's Berligske Tidende

"At a time when world records seemed to have hit the ceiling of what's physically possible to wrestle out of the human organism, Phelps has been the man who managed to push the limits with his magnificent performance," the Danish paper said.

According to a Reuters report: Chinese media have dubbed Phelps' the "flying fish" or the "American superfish." One editorial cartoon showed Phelps as a shark overtaking a torpedo. China's most popular sports newspaper, the Titan Weekly — which is running daily editions during the games — made Phelps one of its two front-page stories Thursday. It ran a large photo of a joyous Phelps under the headline "His Majesty Phelps."

The sports daily L'Equipe devoted an entire page to Phelps under the headline "Alone in the Pantheon." Le Parisien newspaper said, "There aren't enough superlatives" to describe Phelps.

The Times of London devoted three full pages to Phelps, including a sketch in the style of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Vitruvian Man to highlight his physical attributes.

The British Broadcasting Corp. remained focused largely on its own country's rare successes and China's domination of the medal table, and some papers questioned whether Phelps was truly the "greatest Olympian" or just the greatest swimmer.

"The all-time No. 1 Olympian or just one of many such belt-holders?" Daily Mail columnist Paul Hayward wrote.

"The latter, is my conclusion, because numbers of golds won is only one criterion by which to weigh Olympic greatness — not least because of the sheer number of scarcely distinguishable events open to swimmers — though Phelps will move another giant step towards the all-time title on Sunday if he puts Spitz in the shade."

British bookmakers, meanwhile, are already listing Phelps as 5-6 (odds-on) to win five or more gold medals at the next Olympics in London in 2012.

"We couldn't care less whether he's the greatest Olympian ever," Ladbrokes spokesman David Williams said. "The truth is he's costing us a fortune and punters (bettors) just love him. If Phelps comes to London in 2012 there's a strong chance he could clean up again. Frankly, we're already dreading it."

Nowhere is swimming bigger than in Australia, and Phelps has eclipsed the country's own Ian Thorpe, the "Thorpedo" who won five Olympic gold medals, 11 world titles and set 13 world records before retiring in 2006.

The Australian, a national broadsheet, described Phelps in a front-page headline Thursday as "the champion who swims in his own galaxy."

"If Michael Phelps were a country he would be sitting fourth on the Games medal tally," the paper said.

A regional newspaper, The Newcastle Herald, lauded Phelps in an editorial.

"Every Olympiad produces its own titans: athletes whose performances galvanize the world's attention and whose names become synonymous in Olympic history with the cities and years.

Some estimates had as many as 4 billion people may have watched last Friday’s opening ceremonies. Sunday’s Dream Team (men’s USA Team basketball) against the host Chinese (featuring Yao Ming) might have attracted as many as 1 billion viewers world wide. How many will be watching Michael Phelps race with destiny tonight that may be uncertain but this is – more people will be watching swimming tonight than have watched any other swimming event – ever. The worldwide rating number will be a stunning tribute to how much Michael Phelps has meant to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The good news for NBC – they have one more evening of Michael Phelps magic to look forward too. The bad news – Phelps has set the bar as high as it has ever been for the network at an Olympic Games that wasn’t hosted on American soil.

The Networks of NBC Universal have reached 180 million total viewers, 30.6 million average viewers in primetime and a rating of 17.7 rating/30 share, each posting significant gains compared to Athens in 2004. Additionally NBC Universal's primetime delivery has dominated the competition for seven straight nights and Wednesday's TAMi reached 100.9 Million.

·Through seven days NBCU has attracted 180 million total viewers, 15 million more than the first seven days for Athens (165 million).

·NBC's primetime Olympics telecasts have towered over all competition, more than doubling the combined results of ABC, CBS and Fox in average viewers on each of the seven nights of Olympic coverage to date. For the seven nights of the Games to date, NBC's average of 30.6 million viewers beat the average combined totals of the other three networks by 171 percent: CBS (5.1 million), ABC (3.2 million) and Fox (3.0 million).

·Through Thursday night, NBC's primetime Olympics average viewership was out delivering the viewership of the next 14 top-scoring ad-supported English-language broadcast and cable networks combined.

·NBC's Beijing Olympic seven-day average primetime viewership is 30.6 million, more than 13 percent ahead of Athens in 2004 (27.0 million). The national rating average of 17.7/30 is the best primetime rating through the first Thursday for a Summer Olympics outside the U.S. since Barcelona in 1992 (19.0/35) and is a nine percent jump from Athens in 2004 (16.2/28).

·Thursday night garnered 76 million total viewers in primetime and 29.7 million average viewers, within two million of the comparable night in Athens (31.7). The night earned a 17.9 rating/31 share, which is a seven percent decline (19.3/32). The comparable night in 2004 was the highest rated night of the entire Athens Games, which saw Carly Patterson win the USA's first women's all-around gold medal since Mary Lou Retton in 1984.

Sunday we’ll focus on Michel Phelps lasting Olympian marketing legacy.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: CNBC, Reuters and Brandweek.