"Michael Phelps would be worth $40 or $50 million to Nike," said Howard Bloom, who teaches sports management at Algonquin College in Ottawa and has worked with several Olympic athletes, "He could literally allow them to launch a massive swimwear company, and I think you are going to see an incredible bidding war for him."
And if that isn't nuts enough for you, how about this tidbit courtesy of Phelps' agent Peter Carlisle.
"What is the value of eight golds in Beijing before a prime-time audience in the U.S? I'd say $100 million over the course of his lifetime."
In Bloom's case, I'm not exactly sure what kind of bidding war would go on. It'd essentially be Speedo, Phelps' current sponsor, against Nike. And while Nike certainly could make a splash by signing Phelps, to give him in the $40-$50 million range borders on the absurd. Sure, LeBron James has a $90 million contract with Nike, but remember what he's pushing - basketball shoes. Whether you want to admit or not, basketball shoes fly off the shelves a lot faster than do shark skin swim suits or swim googles.
And the important thing to remember, which makes both Bloom's and Carlisle's estimates much too lofty, is that swimming fades away in the minds of most Americans right after the Olympics.
While some people believe Phelps can change that, I don't. The American public has already seen what they want out of Phelps - perfection at the Olympics.
Phelps' performance may inspire people for the short term, but the key problem is that we only see Phelps on TV once every four years. And that won't change. TV stations won't suddenly be replacing NFL games for swim meets just because of Phelps.
Thus, having Phelps' face appear once every four years (and Phelps claims that 2012 will be his last Olympics) makes it hard to see how he could get any kind of mega-endorsement.
Just think about this way, what kind of market value will Phelps have two years from now? It won't be what Tiger or LeBron's market value will be, that's for sure.
For Olympic athletes, there's a very small window of opportunity for them to cash in. Phelps' time is now, but he better do it quickly, before people come to their senses.
Now, Phelps Chases Gold On Land [WSJ]