Has Simone Biles struck marketing gold at the Tokyo Olympics?
Simone Biles has received an outpouring of support following her decision to put her mental health first and withdraw from the gymnastics team competition during the Tokyo Olympics.
Among sponsors, Visa described America’s most accomplished gymnast’s decision as “incredibly brave” and Nabisco called her an “inspiration to us all.”
“We stand by Simone and support her well-being both in and out of competition,” Athleta said. “Being the best also means knowing how to take care of yourself.”
A few critics have accused Ms. Biles of using her mental health as an excuse for a bad performance and quitting on her team. Sports talk radio shows have debated the message sent to youth.
The 24-year old, who will return for the balance beam final on Tuesday, contends her decisions were made solely based on injury risk. She withdrew from the team finals last Tuesday and has since withdrawn from five individual events.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka likewise drew widespread support when she withdrew from the French Open earlier this year after citing struggles with depression.
Even if sponsors are privately disappointed that victory lap campaigns will likely have to be cancelled, dropping Ms. Biles would likely cause a huge backlash.
“Overall, not having Simone participate in the team competition is not an ideal situation for her marketing partners,” Jim Andrews, CEO of A-Mark Partnership Strategies, told Advertising Age. “However, even if she decides to forego the individual competition as well, she has earned a place in gymnastics history and has proven herself to be an amazing spokesperson and influencer who has much to offer brands even without competing and eventually in retirement.”
Famed sports agent Leigh Steinberg believes much depends on whether her athletic career continues but said being open and honest about her mental health could make her “a very potent athletic spokeswoman for mental health.”
He told FOX Business, “This has been someone who’s been in the public eye for a long time, has a pristine record, and there will be people who think this is her finest moment. Athletic achievement is valuable but helping people deal with life problems is an even greater service and so I think she comes out of this well.”
- Olympic sponsors praise Simone Biles after withdrawal – The Associated Press
- Simone Biles’ sponsors stand by her after she withdraws from Olympic events – CNN
- Simone Biles’ sponsors show support after Olympic withdrawal – New York Post
- What Simone Biles’ Olympics Exit Means For Sponsors – Advertising Age
- Simone Biles boosts endorsement potential despite Olympics withdrawal – Fox Business
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from Olympic competition likely lead most advertisers to augment or downplay her involvement in future campaigns? Do you think this experience will affect other Olympic athletes’ endorsement deals going forward?