With Olympic season upon us, many brands may look to new faces to represent them or activate their current athlete sponsorship, all hoping the investment yields to enhance their brand awareness and ultimately sales with their target customers. So when and why does it make sense to enlist the support of an Olympian?

I spoke with Matt Lane, the CEO of SafeSplash Swim Schools, who just signed a sponsorship deal with Olympic swim star Missy Franklin, and believes it makes sense for businesses to sponsor an Olympian.

1. Become a leader. In a crowded or undifferentiated category, adding an Olympian to your team makes it clear that you are the leader in the space. If other brands add a spokesperson, they will likely be perceived as a "me too" brand.

2. Easy alignment. It is a unique opportunity to find an athlete that aligns well you're your brand--whether is it their personal story, their sport or their goals and values for the future.

"With Missy, all of these fit. She is the face of swimming in the U.S. and SafeSplash is a swim school. She wants to help teach more kids to swim and make a positive impact on families and we are eager to have her influence our teaching curriculum," said Lane.

3. Great for child demographic. As Olympians, these athletes are asked to be the best and brightest each country has to offer, and in the end, become role models for children around the world. If your target audience is kids, an Olympian can be a terrific fit. Lane added that Missy is a proven role model for kids and one that parents would like their children to emulate.

4. Personal connection. The audience feels a personal connection to Olympians through the broadcast, and when they align with your brand it becomes a part of their story versus a paid sponsorship. Missy is deeply interested in working with children and helping them learn to swim is a personal platform--with 125 SafeSplash schools open, she will have a lot of opportunities to help kids, added Lane.

5. Lasting relationships. The potential for a long-term relationship can be a strong reason for partnering with an Olympian. Many top Olympians remain in the public eye long after their Olympic careers are over. Are there synergies for both parties that would help the sponsorship extend beyond the 4-year cycle?

"SafeSplash is a much smaller brand than some of Missy's other sponsors like Speedo and Visa," said Lane. "But we are able to provide her with a long-term platform to reach her own goals. To do that, we agreed to a cash and equity deal, and her father will become a board member until Missy is out of college, when she will take her father's place on the board. We know this isn't just about the money. This is a partnership that can last."

Published on: Jun 23, 2016