Team GB medal winners have a short window to capitalise on their success

Having recently spoken on the Today programme, I was taken by the comments of the swimmer David Wilkie, who won Olympic gold in 1976.

Team GB's medal winners only have a short window in which to capitalise on their success, argues Richard Thompson
Team GB's medal winners only have a short window in which to capitalise on their success, argues Richard Thompson
Arguably the most precious commodity in sport and certainly the most valuable sporting brand; David’s ability to capitalise on his new found fame was quite easy. He was Britain’s only winner.

Fast forward to 2016. Team GB’s most successful games ever; 67 medals in total, including an extraordinary 27 golds.

How then do those athletes who have sacrificed everything and rolled the dice on a 'once every four year' opportunity stay in the public eye?

David Willkie didn’t have social media, celebrity reality shows, or a good management company that would have been well qualified to amplify and monetise that precious medal. 

Today, despite the volume of winners, the outlets and platforms to bask in their glory is now huge. However, the reality is that after ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year’ in December, the achievements soon get forgotten. 
At least the athletics World Championships, in London next year, will provide an additional window to keep the success alive for the track-and-field competitors.

With little or no ‘free to air’ exposure for many of the sports that featured in this Olympics, the individual athletes and governing bodies have their work cut out to stay noticed. 

The gold post boxes were a great innovation after London 2012; celebrating, for all time, the achievements of their local heroes. That local success is the best chance a lot of athletes have to remain in the public eye. 
Regional media remains strong, and from Liverpool to Bournemouth each town loves to keep showing off their home grown talent. They make great copy.

Businessesa also have an unquenchable thirst to learn from elite athletes on ‘how they did it’.  The back stories, the family sacrifice, against all the odds; if you have won gold that market needs to be tapped now. 
An Olympic medal is the ultimate global symbol of sporting achievement and athletes should not be constrained by these shores.  

James Cracknel and Denise Lewis, from Olympics long forgotten, still have demand to hear their stories around the world.

Ironically, many brands associated with the Olympics have now spent their budgets for the next twelve months. 

Look at Greg Rutherford, losing his sponsor after winning gold spectacularly on Super Saturday in 2012. There will be others from 2016 that may also come un-stuck.

For me, the governing bodies of the individual sports need to step up now and help those athletes magnify and celebrate the success of their medal. Comms for the next six months is crucial. 

Get it right and the run up to the next World Championships or Olympics becomes an easier job to secure sponsorship.  

It’s an arms race and the naive, complacent or arrogant will get left behind.

The sheer scale of success in Rio 2016 may dilute media awareness of the individual athletes; but it cannot dilute their achievements. Companies could do a lot worse than have an Olympian as a spokesperson or Ambassador for their brand or business. 
These are extraordinary people, mostly from humble beginnings that have given everything to their sport. They make great stories. Great Britain is now a global sporting ‘super power’. 
We have Team GB 2016 to thank. We need to make the most of this moment and tell the world how good we really are.

Richard Thompson is chairman of M&C SaatchiMerlin

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