Olympic Body as a Billboard? Advertising Strategy Backfires

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.

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.