The sport of track and field often goes overlooked in four year segments by the rest of the world until it is time to hold the Summer Olympics. Then the fireworks, cameras and notoriety swarm on the athletes like a pack of half starved Dobermans looking to get the scoop on the big names and feel-good stories.
Though often viewed as the uncaring outside world peering into the insular community, the attention has the positive effect of shining a spotlight on very deserving performers who otherwise would be unknown outside of the quarter-mile oval. With that said we get to see these stars of the track be placed on advertisements often reserved for the likes of Tom Brady or Derek Jeter; some good, some bad and others just plain entertaining.
Since the record obliterating 2008 Beijing Games, Usain Bolt has been able to put a face to track not only for his native Jamaica but for the entire world. Appearing in Gatorade commercials sweating the iconic neon colors of the post workout beverage to the hilarious baton passing of the Puma commercials by whom he is endorsed, Bolt has brought much needed personality and comedy to a sport that needs both in scores. As the London Games get closer, be prepared to be bombarded by the ubiquitous visage of Jamaica’s biggest export since reggae.
For the American squad there has been a recent rush to plaster our notable athletes on some famous brands. Banking giant CITI Bank decided to hang their name on the shoes of Meb Keflezighi, the 2012 Marathon Trials champion as he runs to find his banking information. His yelp for happiness lends itself to a chuckle. Not shabby for a silver medalist.
The blades of Gillette are now gracing the well shaped facial hair of sprint star and American record holder Tyson Gay. The shaving and toiletry brand has put Gay as their front man for the Olympic Games and he comes through with his signature chin strap stubble. If he can place and stay healthy at these games he may get to take Tiger Woods’s place as the smiling face of shaving royalty.
A personal favorite is the sponsoring of Sudanese born Lopez Lomong who was the flag bearer for the 2008 Opening Ceremonies for the U.S. The feel good story and struggles that Lomong overcame from his dangerous homeland have made him be an example of the American dream. In doing so, Tide, the brand that keeps your clothes sparkling clean, has given Lomong a commercial where he is able to flash that infectious smile of his. After his recent lap mishap maybe the jovial Lomong can “clean up” with Tide by fighting for a space on a very competitive distance squad.
Though it comes around only every four years we must show our appreciation of the sport by being glad that the stars of the sport are given publicity in such a random yet critical method as advertising. With a sport hanging by thread with low viewership and dwindling funds for its athletes this maybe a spark to get the names and faces of the sports best into a captivated audience.
Meb Keflezighi – the happiest a man has looked after depositing a check. Must be the Skechers.