• 10.24.08

Michael Phelps: Endorsement Gold

The Olympic hero stops by our offices to hawk a performance beverage from a tiny Austin company that hit the jackpot by signing him before the Games. Video after the jump…

Roughly a year ago — months and months before Michael Phelps set world records in overdrive in Beijing — Human Performance Labs took a bet on the swimmer. The tiny Austin-based startup took its tiny marketing budget and courted the not-so-tiny 23-year-old athlete to hawk its protein performance drink, PureSport.


Eight gold medals later, PureSport has struck endorsement gold (considering its only national distribution deal so far is with Sports Authority). Phelps, too, has cashed in. He’s received hundreds of marketing pitches to consider, adding to his commercial repertoire, which already includes Visa, Kellogg’s, Speedo, AT&T, and Rosetta Stone (huh?). Also, don’t forget the post-Olympics deal his mom, Debbie Phelps, landed with women’s retailer Chico’s. Since Beijing, Tiger Woods-size numbers as large as $100 million have been tossed around, estimating Phelps’ unprecedented (in his sport) potential endorsement worth over his lifetime. Although Phelps is the product, he clearly has a business engine behind him: that being his agent, Octagon’s Peter Carlisle, a sort of Ari Gold of sports. All of which means PureSport may have gotten the deal of a lifetime; it’s hard to imagine the tiny company could have landed Phelps post-Olympics.

Phelps stopped by Fast Company‘s offices in downtown Manhattan earlier this week to discuss his partnership with the powdered performance cocktail and what it’s like to become an overnight iconic brand. He arrived with Blackberry and sunglasses in hand (before shuffling off to MTV’s TRL), along with an entourage from Human Performance Labs, doing his best to talk business. Check out Fast Company‘s interview with Phelps to hear about his approach to his personal brand. His insights aren’t exactly… insightful. But then, if you’re PureSport, who cares?! The dude can swim… fast. And he loves PureSport. Banana and grape flavors, specifically.

About the author

Danielle Sacks is an award-winning journalist and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She's chronicled some of the most provocative people in business, with seven cover stories that included profiles on J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Malcolm Gladwell, and Chelsea Clinton.