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In a New Era for Athlete Brands, Where Do the Olympics Fit in?

“The Serenas and Simones of the world know that their participation is a choice, not a necessity,” Thirty Five Ventures CMO Sarah Flynn writes in Sports Business Journal.

This week in Tokyo, the Olympics are open for business once again, but in a way we’ve never quite seen before. First of all, zero spectators. Second, it’s been five years since the last Summer Games.

Perhaps most importantly, we’re in the midst of a whole new era in which more and more athletes are taking brand-building into their own hands. And as Thirty Five Ventures Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Flynn wrote this week at Sports Business Journal, we’re only at the earliest stage of being able to reckon with what that means for the Olympics in the long term.

Read an excerpt of Flynn’s feature, “Tokyo 2021: Whole New Games”:

“I made this statement about a month ago when our team at Boardroom was discussing her place in the sports marketing world after Biles once again made history by winning the US Gymnastics Championships for the seventh time. We all agreed that this statement is not merely hyperbole. It’s clear that Biles’ accomplishments — which as of 2021 consist mostly of breaking her own records and creating moves that perhaps only she will ever be able to land — make her one of the greatest athletes of all time.

From a marketing standpoint, she’s been able to uniquely leverage not only her achievements, but her personality. She left Nike earlier this year for a larger opportunity with Athleta, where she can own her own performance wear line. She’s been featured across so many Uber Eats ads that her face has become synonymous with the brand. And she’s remained one of the most visible athletes in America despite not having participated in an Olympic Games in five years.

As the postponed Tokyo Olympics finally arrive, one might think that the sense of anticipation would be doubled given that we had to wait another year for the Games to begin. However, the opposite seems to be true.

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Read more of Flynn’s article at SBJ, and follow her on Twitter @flynnwaslike.


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