Marketable U.S. Olympians that will stand the test of time

August 30, 2012 by Experian Marketing Services

For professional athletes, it is essential to raise their profiles, establish personal brands and become more attractive to potential sponsors. In a previous post, we tracked online searches of the U.S. Olympic athletes to see who was in the race for online popularity during the Olympics. Now that the games are over and some time has passed, who has been able to sustain their fame? Where we left off, Lolo Jones had claimed the number one spot in the last week of the games – and jokingly admitted her rank may have been from googling herself.

For the week ending August 18th, McKayla Maroney, the gold medal gymnast – who has been on the publicity circuit and making headlines for hanging with celebrities and the “Not Impressed” Meme – saw an increase in ten percentage points and claimed the top searched U.S. Olympian, accounting for 22.5% of searches. As we noted in our previous post, McKayla stayed on this list from the first week of the games and her share of searches grew a total of 222% since then.

Last week, appearing in the top were Serena Williams and Kobe Bryant, two Olympians who have popular professional athletic careers outside the Olympics and are considered very marketable. With the buzz from the U.S. Open which began earlier this week, Serena dominated the number one spot accounting for more than one-third of the U.S. Olympians searched. Serena maintains huge endorsement deals with companies such as Nike and Gatorade and has appeared on several Forbes lists – Top 100 Celebrities and Highest Paid Female Athletes.

Also of note, swimming medalist Ryan Lochte appeared back in the top ten for the first time since the week one of games. For the weeks ending August 18 and August 25 he held his position at four and five while others around him fluctuated. He had some buzz pre-games in the number two spot the week before the games stared – this could indicate people will remain interested in news about him moving forward. Search terms around Lochte seem to be skewed towards a heavy interest in his personal life, as many are related to having a girlfriend and his sister who recently made headlines for a controversial interview.

The Olympics are a great stage for athletes and marketers, and this year’s summer games were more digital than ever before. Many fans went online and to social networks for news about their favorite athletes, which is a great opportunity for all marketers, not just official sponsors. Marketers should see athlete endorsements as a huge opportunity to expand their reach, as well as put products in front of new audiences, so it is important to evaluate who would be a good candidate. Even if athlete endorsements don’t fit with your brand, search intelligence can help you identify consumer trends and opportunities that arise from big events, like the Olympics, in order to benefit from terms that drive traffic in your industry.