I'm looking forward to having my buddies Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin over for breakfast.
Well, okay, they're not exactly my buddies. And they won't be coming in person.
But I can "visit" with them over breakfast by buying boxes of Wheaties with their pictures on them. I'll probably have to do most of the talking,
It seems like only yesterday Phelps was winning all those gold medals in Beijing by swimming faster than everyone else and Liukin was winning the women's
all-around gold medal in gymnastics.
How Quickly We Forget
Actually, it seems like forever ago. It's hard to believe it's only been a few weeks since we were watching the Olympics. Most of the medal winners are
already forgotten or a distant memory for many of us.
Liukin's Olympic glory will live longer than most because her picture is on Wheaties boxes. The publicity from all the endorsements he'll be doing will help keep
Phelps' name in front of the public and extend his fame as well. But he'll have more staying power1 as a celebrity than Liukin because of the sheer magnitude
of what he did in Beijing.
Phelps broke Mark Spitz's record for gold medals in a single Olympics that stood for 30 years. The potential for that happening was hyped before and throughout
the Olympics. And it's likely to be a long time before anyone breaks or even ties his eight golds in one Olympics. We still remember Mark Spitz's name, even if our
memory of Spitz the person is a little fuzzier. For Liukin, fame is likely to be much shorter. She didn't have a breakthrough Olympics the way Phelps did. Unless
she's competing, she'll already be a distant memory at the next Olympics and all but forgotten after that.
Endorsements allow companies to share in the glory of the athletes or other celebrities. Or so they hope. Endorsers, including fictional characters (like Tony the
Tiger), help with marketing in several ways. Their faces lend recognition and trust. Their voices provide repetition and recall. And their endorsement provides a third-party testimonial that the companies using them hope will make us more likely to buy the product. And the endorsements help the image as well as the bank
accounts of the people making them.
Interestingly enough, professional spokespeople, including athletes, are used three times more than celebrity spokespeople. The most successful spokespeople provide
relevant images to the target audience. For example, a swimmer may not be good for selling toys, Internet services or investment services. But he's a great spokesperson
for sporting goods, coaching programs, vitamins or supplements for sports performance -- and for the "Breakfast of Champions." Professional spokespeople are also used
differently than celebrity spokespeople, who aren't as limited in what they can promote. Professional spokespeople are more likely to show up on TV while celebrity
spokespeople are more likely to be used on radio and in print.1
Whether an endorsement turns out to be a good deal for both endorser and endorsee depends on some important variables, though. Like whether the athlete/celebrity
continues to do well and stays out of trouble.
Breakfast of Champions: More Than a Bowl of Wheaties
But back to my buddies Michael and Nastia. I think we should be on a first-name basis if I'm going to have them over for breakfast. Don't you agree?
I doubt they'd settle for a bowl of Wheaties if they stopped by in person.
Did you check out Michael's diet, which made the news during the Olympics? Twelve thousand calories a day. He slams down three fried egg sandwiches, a five-egg
omelet, three chocolate pancakes, three sugar-coated slices of French toast, cheese, fried onions, grits and a couple cups of coffee. And that's just for breakfast.
He does a pound of pasta for lunch along with another pound of pasta and a large pizza for dinner -- along with a bunch of other stuff. I gained two pounds just reading
I didn't see Nastia's daily menu on the news. But, given the number of calories she burns doing all those gymnastics moves, I suspect a bowl of Wheaties
wouldn't cut it.
I Blush Just Thinking About What They Were Thinking
I'm not an expert on the physique of male swimmers. But, based on comments I heard from a number female friends -- some of them married women, mind you -- a lot
of them would have jumped at an opportunity to have Phelps over for breakfast. I don't think they had Wheaties in mind when they were looking at him in his swimming
gear, though. I won't hazard a guess on exactly what's passing through their minds except to say it's enough to make a guy blush.
I don't fully share the admiration my female friends have for Michael Phelps' physique. But I think I understand it. I'm guessing they look at him more
or less like I look at Liukin and the other women gymnasts. Or those women who play beach volleyball. I watched three matches before I realized they were keeping score.
Just over 300 gold medals were awarded during the 16 days of the Beijing Olympics and there were just over 950 medals in all, counting the silver and bronze ones.
Most Olympic athletes go home without a gold medal -- or any medal at all. A lot of PR and marketing programs fall short, too.
And if you really want to get noticed, winning a gold medal isn't enough. If you consider getting your story told as the equivalent of winning a gold medal, then
getting it widely noticed is the equivalent of Michael Phelps' eight golds.
Phelps' eight medals broke Mark Spitz's old record of seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympics. Most of us still recognize that name. But I doubt many of us
would remember anyone else from that year's Olympics, even if we went to the record books and got a list of that year's winners. Phelps probably will be
remembered 30 years from now -- or his name will be remembered -- but Liukin almost certainly won't be.
And, for all of their celebrity, most of us don't think about Phelps or Liukin every day. Or remember their names. If you watched her Beijing performances, you
probably remember Liukin's face. But would have remembered her name on your own?
Your audience is bombarded by messages from your competitors and a whole lot of other folks. Are you the one who's story is just a little bit better and who is
making that extra effort that brings home the gold? And will anyone care or remember a month after they saw it?
Good enough isn't always good enough if you want to be heard, understood and remembered. And telling your story once won't keep it alive -- even if it gets a lot
of attention the first time around.
1Google News Archive 1968 - Present.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jerry Brown committed journalism for 20 years, but received a full pardon. He's been
practicing public relations for more than 20 years and plans to keep practicing until he gets it right -- which he hopes takes a long time because he
likes what he does. He specializes in strategy and message development, media relations and media training and writing (news releases, annual reporters,
collateral, etc.). He also writes the Monday Morning Media Minute, a free weekly media tip distributed
by e-mail. You can reach him at email@example.com / 303-781-8787.
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