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18-08-08, 23:01
merica su uzesh mahiri Phelps:
BEIJING (Reuters) - Phelps Inc. has gone global. A huge marketing machine behind Michael Phelps hit town on Monday, strategy in place to make him a global brand -- and even richer.


A day after Phelps won his eighth gold medal at the Beijing Olympics making him the most successful swimmer and Olympian of all time, the corporate executives emerged from the poolside well prepared to capitalize on his new-found fame.

But Phelps, 23, who was looking forward to going home to Baltimore to see his dog and hang out with his friends and family, was unfazed at being dubbed the hottest marketing tool to ever emerge from the Olympics and at his new celebrity status.

"It's not about the money. I do what I do because I love it and that's why I'm here," Phelps told Reuters in an interview organized by one of his sponsors, credit card company Visa, in an ornate chamber of Beijing's 120-year-old Prince Jun Palace.

"I see myself as a normal person and the same kid I was four years ago so I'm just living a dream right now."

Visa, which has sponsored Phelps since 2002, said the swimmer's success at Beijing raised his visibility and would enable a world campaign around him.

"Michael Phelps is leaving Beijing as a global sports icon. He's now with the likes of the Michael Jordans, Tiger Woods and Roger Federers and he's earned every bit to be in that elite company," said Michael Lynch, head of global sponsorship at Visa.

Phelps first became marketable after winning six gold medals at the 2004 Athens Games. He has had a financial adviser for the past five years to help him manage his income and recently bought a house in Baltimore that he will move into after Beijing.

But his success at the 2008 Games has put him in a different league, with a record 14 gold medals to his name, and is set to make him the richest swimmer ever.

"This absolutely changes the game. The values will change, the depth of the programs he is involved with will change, the breadth of these programs will change," Phelps's agent, Peter Carlisle, from U.S. sports agency Octagon told Reuters.

Before Beijing, it was estimated that Phelps's sponsorship deals earned him about $5 million a year although Carlisle, who has acted for Phelps for six years, would not confirm this.


But as Phelps won gold after gold at Beijing, his appeal soared and television audiences in the United states, the world's biggest media market, watched his victories in record numbers.

Sponsorship evaluator Joyce Julius & Associates estimated Phelps's air-time value to Speedo, one of his sponsors, was $3.6 million after winning five golds -- more than justifying the $1 million bonus Speedo paid Phelps for matching Mark Spitz's record of winning seven gold medals at one Olympics.

His windfall is about to get bigger. A lot bigger.

Carlisle said previous Olympians had struggled to stay in the public eye between the Games but he was confident that Phelps Inc. would maintain its momentum due to a multi-layered marketing strategy that was not just focused on swimming competitions.

Phelps has made it clear his goal is to raise the profile of swimming.

As well as adverts for sponsors, he created a social network site for swimmers (www.swimroom.com) that sells merchandise like "Michael for President" T-shirts, completed a documentary on swimming, runs swim clinics and has taken on various TV roles.

"You can't compare the platform he has now to anything that any swimmer has had in the past," said Carlisle. "He has worked to develop promotional platforms that can exist between the Games, irrespective of whether there is a competitive event.

"I think he can make swimming much more than a once-every-four-year sport in terms of relevance to the general public."

But could Carlisle put a value on Phelps with some marketing experts estimating he could be worth up to $30 million a year? He said it was impossible -- but the potential was enormous.

"If the strategy works with each of these platforms and business engines are fuelled, this amounts over time to arguably exponential growth in efficiency and in value," he said.