Usain Bolt, the 6'5" Jamaican who wowed Beijing and is one of those athletes that you just love, has just signed the biggest deal in athletics history with Puma. Although the financial details aren't being made clear, it is thought that Puma has shelled out something akin to footballer Ronaldo's $32.5 million deal with Nike. The difference is, however, that while Ronaldo's was a four-year deal, Bolt's lasts until 2013.
As befits his status of Most Amiable Lethal Force in world athletics, Bolt will probably have been wined and dined by just about all the sportswear companies. Usain stuck with Puma—literally the brother company to Adidas, founded as it was by Adi Dassler's brother Rudolf—which has sponsored him since he was an even ganglier 16-year-old, back in 2003.
"Yeah, definitely, definitely, [others] were interested," said Bolt. "But for me Puma is the No. 1 in my book. We've been together for years now, they are my family so I don't want to start with a new family. You want money, but it's also got to be about the comradeship between you and your company."
Bolt's clothing collection is already available on the Puma website. And as well as clothing, Puma's going down the olfactory route, with Animagical, that comes in both man-grance and wo-fume. Rather like Michael Jordan's "Jumpman" logo, which flogs around a billion bucks' worth of gear round the world, Bolt has got his ultra-recognizable To Di World silhouette. Puma is going to shift some units with this deal.
The fact that Bolt was beaten by Tyson Gay in Stockholm earlier this Summer, and will not race until 2011, due to a hamstring injury caused by an existing scoliosis problem, does not affect Bolt's earning powers. Puma Chairman and CEO Jochen Zeitz compares him to David Beckham, one of the most marketable stars—and an Adidas name—of the 21st Century.
If you asked about the rareness of Usain Bolt, he's up there with some of the best in any sport," says Zeitz. "He connects to the fans in a unique way, and not just in a stadium—he can connect on the performance side as well as the lifestyle side—and I think that's the difference to many other athletes who do great things but cannot really find that connection to the fans."