Other than the airplane pulling the banner advertising low rates for car insurance (complete with a funny looking lizard), yesterday’s parade in Towson, Md. honoring Olympic super-hero Michael Phelps and fellow local champions Katie Hoff, Jessica Long and others was for the most part commercial-free. The parade itself featured high school marching bands and performers, the gentlemen from the Boumi Temple, military representatives, swimmers from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, folks from Pete’ s Grill, lots of politicians, the Oriole Bird and Ravens Cheerleaders with mascot Poe.
But with an athlete of Phelps’s fame, these kinds of All-America public appearances will likely fade as the endorsement deals take center stage. The Baltimore Sun reported that his endorsements are estimated at $100 million over the course of his career, while the Davie-Brown Index, which rates the appeal of athletes and celebrities, has Phelps topping the chart.
Will a swimmer have the same staying power as other celebs? That’s just one challenge for his handlers, as they look for ways to capitalize on his popularity.
Here’s the current list:
1. Michael Phelps; 2. Michael Jordan; 3. Tom Hanks; 4. Emeril Lagasse; 5. Oprah Winfrey; 6. Shawn Johnson; 7. Michael J. Fox; 8. Paul Newman; 9. Denzel Washington; 10. Morgan Freeman
From a PR perspective, a critical piece of managing Phelps and keeping him high on the list is not only maintaining the buzz, but having a crisis communications plan in place to address any issues that could arise when your celeb is a 23-year-old with a lot of time on his hands before his next major appearance, the 2012 Olympic Games in London – only 1,391 days away. America needs a hero these days, so here’s hoping he can maintain that solid gold reputation.