Buzzfeed has a post about how Sarah Robles, the US Olympic hopeful and the strongest woman in America lives in poverty. They paint a picture of a dedicated, wholesome, healthy and truly hard-working gal, who has begun mentoring athletes younger than her too. In short, she's exactly the kind of person any brand would want as a role model - so why aren't brands sponsoring her? they ponder.
This is a good question when brands like Gatorade celebrate title IX with a message that wants to stop young girls from leaving their sports as by the time a girl turns 14 they'll be dropping out of their sports at twice the rate boys do. But if the girls don't walk away, and become the great US Olympic hope and quite possibly the best bet for a gold in 2012 like Sarah Robles, they have no sponsors. Years ago Nike 'got real' in their ads to women, encouraging girls to play by having them repeating the mantra If you LET ME play.... and filling in all good things that come from it.
You'll notice this outcome seems invariable when you look at the (visible) woman to men ratio in any brands ads who sponsors athletes. Trying to convince young women not to leave their sports, while choosing not to sponsor or show off women athletes who might not fit the ideal world of pretty and popular, makes Gatorade's message here a bit of "lipstick service" to the cause, if you'll pardon the pun.
Then again, from an economic standpoint on the brand's part, it makes sense. Most brands, be it Gatorade, Mcdonald's, Wheetabix, or Adidas, tend to wait until an athlete reaches a 'sweet spot,' before opening the wallet. Namely, a few big wins, but not enough to demand a high signage price. Still, one wishes they'd walk the walk just a little bit more.
Buzzfeed's point is that while Sarah might have the strongest body in America, she's not considered traditionally attractive. She could win every time she shows up in the Olympics and still never grace the cover of the body Issue, the one with naked and traditionally sexy people on the cover.
Procter and Gamble don't sponsor athletes, they sponsor the athletes' moms, and in Sarah Robles case they're actually flying her mother to London so that she can watch Sarah compete. They are good to their commercial word here, and not just showing the cause some lip-service.
P&G celebrate moms - Best Job - London Olympics 2012 - and the 2010 version: P&G proud sponsor of moms.
This bit from the Buzzfeed article makes me think Unilever should grab Sarah Robles as a spokesmodel for a Dove "extra strength" anything: Sarah has a twitter and a Facebook page, where she shares her mantra, “Beauty is strength”. Come on Unilever, you know there's a deo out there waiting for an ad with Sarah in it.
She's not the only athlete to have a tough time making ends meet though, this story is as old as time itself. Recently Japanese athlete Maya Nakanishi funded her way to the 2012 Paralympics in London by posing nude. Most athletes (male and female) in the Olympics struggle because they still are "amateur athletes" even if they no longer need to be, meanwhile the IOC aren't exactly hurting for cash. Even the musicians at the London Olympics are asked to play for free, it seems to me that the stars of the show are the ones who should be paid first (or at least sponsored by big brands) but I guess athletes and musicians today are the gladiators of yesterday. Let's all clap and buy more crap.