Olympic Body as a Billboard? Advertising Strategy Backfires

Sarah Rappaport|News Assistant, CNBC
Monday, 16 Jul 2012 | 9:15 AM ET

When the world watches American Olympian Nick Symmonds go for gold in the men’s 800 meter competition at the London Olympics, viewers may notice something different about his outfit.

Athletes Should Be Allowed Sponsorship: Team USA Member
Nick Symmonds, track athlete for the US Olympic team, told CNBC, "It is very important that I be allowed to be identify myself as a brand, in creating a brand that companies want to affiliate themselves with and if I go into this Olympic black out (sponsorship) period it really handicaps my ability to earn a living."

Symmonds will have a piece of tape over his left deltoid to tape up a temporary tattoo — one that a company has paid to have on his body.

Symmonds, currently ranked first in the U.S. and sixth in the world, auctioned off space on his body in the form of a temporary tattoo for sponsorship of him as an athlete.

Hanson Dodge Creative was the winner. The company shelled out $11,100 in an e-bay auction for the space, according to Symmonds. Nike is another of Symmond’s sponsors.

“Domestically, I’m allowed to display the [Hanson Dodge] tattoo, but internationally according to IAAF and IOC rules I have to tape over it,” Symmonds explained Monday on CNBC’s "Worldwide Exchange". Symmonds said that he hopes in the future, athletes can control their own sponsorship at the Olympics, in addition to the Games having their own sponsors like McDonald's.

He expressed his frustration about ban on individual sponsorship for track athletes.

“We train for four years for these events, and we come here and all these sponsors have helped over the years with travel, medical, housing, food, everything, they’ve been everything to us and when we come to the Olympics and can give them a return on their investment, suddenly we’re not welcome anymore, and I just think it’s terrible,” Symmonds said.

“If I can’t develop myself as a brand, and give companies a return on their investment, it really hampers my ability to earn a living,” he added.

Symmonds flew into London last week, and will compete to be the first American to win a medal in the 800 meter contest since Johnny Gray got a bronze in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.


Contact Europe News


    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    › Learn More

Europe Video

  • CNBC kicks off its series investigating what goes on behind the scenes in F1 and takes a closer look at all the technology, innovation and plain hard graft that can make the difference between victory and defeat.

  • Dick Bove, vice president of equity research for teh financial sector at Rafferty Capital, discusses the banking sector following Bank of America's "extraordinary" trading results, and says this year should be "very good" for the industry.

  • Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital, says Weibo is trying to lower expectations with its IPO pricing due to poor results released on Wednesday and concerns about usage.