The London Paralympics attracted a record-breaking 2.7 million ticket-holders and 3.8 billion TV viewers.
The impact of the games hasn’t gone unnoticed. In the four years since 2012, brands have been cozying up to its athletes. With the Rio Paralympics kicking off Sept. 7, this trend is more evident than ever.
“I’ve seen more brands extend their Olympic activity into the Paralympics,” said Anthony Scammell, who leads sport and partnership marketing at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. “Some of them may feel they missed out in 2012, when brands like P&G highlighted an opportunity for those rich and uplifting stories.”
This time, sponsors aren’t just looking at title slots or teams; they want individual ambassadors, too. Here are three athletes who have caught their attention:
Richard Whitehead MBE
Marathon runner and sprinter Richard Whitehead is the current champion in the T42 200m. He ran the length of Britain to raise money for charity in 2013, the same year he was awarded an MBE.
Besides an individual sponsorship from BP, he has also drawn attention from telecom Virgin Media and orthopedic specialist Össur. BP’s “The Energy Within” film starring Whitehead has garnered over 1 million hits since its debut on Aug. 19.
Twenty-one-year-old swimmer Ellie Simmonds is onto her third Paralympics, with four gold medals under her belt. She stars with fellow Paralympian Susie Rodgers in Samsung UK’s #SchoolofRio campaign opposite comedian Jack Whitehall. So far the video has garnered over 54,000 views on YouTube.
With nearly 50,000 Twitter followers, Simmonds is known for her upbeat, team-centric attitude. The “Great British Bake Off” lover often shares her own foodie creations with her fans. She has been an ambassador for supermarket Sainsbury’s for six years.
Besides Samsung, she’s also a favorite of Adidas, who kit out Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Coca-Cola sponsored five U.S. athletes at the Olympics, but Tatyana McFadden is the only Paralympian on Team USA to hold a contract with the drinks giant.
The track athlete’s extraordinary rags-to-riches story began at an orphanage in Russia. She moved to Maryland with her adoptive family and as a teen fought for equal access to sports — a move that was eventually enshrined in federal law.
McFadden also holds an individual sponsorship with BP.
“While it’s not going to happen overnight, we’ve already seen poster girls and boys having those deals. People see them as amazing athletes — it’s only natural it will grow,” said Chris Allen, an account director at sports marketing agency Pitch.
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