Nick Symmonds is flashing his deltoid like a well-aimed middle finger at the Olympics sponsorship system this year. The media-savvy American middle-distance runner, who easily qualified to compete in the upcoming London games with a blistering 800 meters, spent recent months challenging highly controlled branding rules that he and many competitors believe reward everyone but the actual athletes.
Symmonds up-yours to the system began earlier this year, when he auctioned off a patch of his skin on eBay, sparking a bidding war among 85 brands wanting to advertise on his body. Milwaukee outdoor lifestyle agency Hanson Dodge Creative snagged the space for $11,100. It’s a branding coup made all the more valuable by headlines trailing the handsome 28-year-old track star ever since he convinced Paris Hilton to go on a date with him.
The tattoo is temporary, but the reasons behind Symmonds’ one-man campaign to fund himself and tweak the powers that be are lasting. The Olympics will generate $6 billion to $7 billion, possibly more, in sponsorship and advertising revenue. Yet many of the more than 10,000 athletes competing this summer struggle to get by financially...
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