It's still Miller time for advertisers
Bode Miller's controversial comments haven't scared away advertisers and might end up being an Olympic boost.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Normally an advertiser is thrilled if one of its contracted athletes is dominating pre-Olympic news coverage.
But American skier Bode Miller is testing that rule this year.
Most of the coverage of Miller has focused on his outrageous statements, such as his almost bragging about racing "wasted" in a recent "60 Minutes" interview. Within the last four weeks he's been on the covers of both Time and Newsweek as well as Sports Illustrated and the debut cover of Play, a new sports magazine from the New York Times, with headlines such as "American Rebel" and "Bode Miller's Bumpy Ride."
Nike is using Miller in spots in Friday's opening ceremony, even though it doesn't sell ski equipment or outwear in North America.
"Bode is one of those athletes we feel transcends sports outside the few weeks of the Olympics," said Nike spokesman Nate Tobecksen. "Our relationship hasn't changed with him, though obviously we wouldn't endorse the idea of drinking and playing sports."
And Visa is going ahead with plans to have Miller be one of the athletes to debut it's new advertising slogan "Life takes Visa," which replaces the "Visa: It's everywhere you want to be," tag line of the last 20 years.
"We have worked with Bode for several years now and know the type of person he is," said Michael Lynch, Visa USA's senior vice president of sponsorship marketing. "Yes, he has been provocative, but we also recognize that he's revolutionized his sport and has energized the Turin Games, which is a positive for all of us who are vested in their success."
Closing the attention deficit
And it seems like attention is one thing that these Olympics could probably use.
Ticket sales have reportedly been soft. And the promos for coverage have been appearing on NBC, which is mired in last place in the ratings race between the four major networks and has aired no major sports coverage of note in months.
Ratings and excitement could also suffer by comparison to the 2002 Winter Olympics, which were held in Salt Lake City, rather than Turin, Italy, and which came just months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which increased the feelings of nationalism among many Americans.
That may be one of the reasons that a poll of sports, broadcast and marketing executives by Sports Business Daily found Miller to still be the No. 2 most marketable athlete behind figure skater Michelle Kwan, who is the other athlete being used by Visa to kickoff its new campaign. More than a quarter of those polled picked Miller as the most marketable Olympic athlete. A little controversy and a bit of a bad boy image is probably not a bad thing, according to experts in the field.
"I would say if anything, he's helping," said Peter Carlisle, director Olympic sports for Octagon, which markets and represents athletes. "More people are talking about the Olympics, about Bode and skiing.
"Remember, the highest rated Olympic ever was Tonya and Nancy," he added, referring to U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding, who became infamous when she was accused of plotting to injure rival Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.
For a look at NBC's ratings woes, even with the Olympics, click here.
For a look at the endorsement potential for the Summer Olympic athletes in 2004, click here.
For more on the business of sports, click here.