When Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt arrived in England last month, he already had a series of lucrative sponsorship deals estimated to swell his bank account by some US$20million annually.
The world’s fastest man is the face of German sportswear company Puma, which also sponsors the Jamaican national team. He also looms larger than life on a poster for Olympic sponsor Visa adorning the Westfield shopping centre on the edge of the Olympic Park in London.
But Bolt’s annual earnings seem destined for a big boost after he retained his 100 metres Olympic title and the world record on Sunday night. While he is said to need a higher profile in the United States to join the ranks of the world’s richest athletes, that is no longer thought to be beyond the reach of the fastest man on the planet.
The tall 25-year-old is now considered to be an advertising man’s dream. His name alone is tailor-made for his profession and he has won a massive following on the biggest global stage with a combination of unprecedented athletic achievement and personal appeal.
According to Joel Seymour-Hyde of sports marketing agency Octagon, “The fastest man of all time is a big statement to be able to make. Beyond that, you have his stature. He is an iconic-looking figure.
“Then you have the charisma and personality. 100 metre runners are always big on bravado but it’s unique to have someone so smiley and relaxed,” he added.
Bolt’s success was a boost for Puma, number three in sports apparel sales behind Nike and Adidas, which said in July that it would cut back on sponsorship after second quarter earnings dipped. But Puma will now almost certainly step up marketing with a campaign built around Bolt once the Games are over.
Puma has embraced Jamaica’s image as a laid-back and vibrant country to help sell Bolt and his teammates, and teamed with Cedella Marley, daughter of reggae legend Bob Marley, to design Jamaica’s Olympic kit.
Bolt, in return, has delivered solid gold for his sponsor and helped refresh the image of his Caribbean homeland.
His marketability is now being compared with that of former England soccer captain David Beckham, one of the most famous sports celebrities Britain has ever produced.
Beckham stormed into the important United States market after joining LA Galaxy, and ranks 8th in Forbes’ latest survey of top earning sports personalities. Bolt was the highest track and field athlete, but only 63rd overall in a list topped by boxer Floyd Mayweather.