Clay Finds Two New Sponsors After Losing Nike

By Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer Sports Business Journal

Published October 24, 2011, Page 9

Less than two months after losing his most financially supportive sponsor, Nike, Olympic decathlete Bryan Clay has found two new sponsors, BP and The Century Council, to help underwrite his campaign for a third Olympic medal. 

Clay, a two-time Olympic medalist, had been with Nike for eight years.

Clay, who won silver in the decathlon at the Athens Games and gold at the Beijing Games, will be one of about nine athletes featured in Olympic-related promotions by U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor BP in its marketing efforts around the London Games. BP declined to disclose the names of the other athletes, who are being announced by the company this week. The energy company’s endorsement of Clay is a multiyear agreement valued in the low to mid-six figures.

The Century Council, which signed Clay to a multiyear agreement valued in the low to mid-six figures, will makeClay the centerpiece of its print ad campaign discouraging drunken driving and underage drinking. The nonprofit organization, funded by spirits companies, featured Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno in a campaign during the Vancouver Games and is using Shaquille O’Neal as a spokesman discouraging binge drinking on college campuses.

The deals Clay signed give him 10 endorsers ahead of the London Games. His partners include Oakley, Polo Ralph Lauren, BMW, BP, The Century Council, Zico Coconut Water, Deloitte, Bioenergy Ribose, Wheaties Fuel and Visa. All of those deals except for Visa and Wheaties Fuel were signed in the last six months.

“We’ve been networking as hard as we can and we’ve had some really good opportunities come to fruition,” said Clay, whose marketing deals are managed by Jeremy Snyder, founder of The Factory Agency, which launched early this year and also represents Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann.

Clay said that Snyder has been more aggressive in searching for opportunities since August. The decathlete and Nike, which had sponsored him for eight years, parted ways that month. The split followed a move by Clay to sign with Polo Ralph Lauren, a USOC sponsor that serves as the official outfitter of Team USA.

At the time, Nike was Clay’s biggest patron and losing the deal was so unsettling that he worried about how he would pay his mortgage. He said the financial uncertainty became a distraction during his training. Clay decided not to compete in the track and field world championships in late August and underwent surgery. But he now believes that parting with Nike has helped open other opportunities like the deals with BP and The Century Council, which have given him financial security ahead of the London Games.

“With me not having a Nike contract anymore, it’s freed me up to do a lot of other things and allowed me to work with companies that want to use me rather than one that wants to tie me up from being used,” Clay said.

Snyder said he is in discussions with two to three more companies about endorsing Clay. He anticipates he will sign at least two more deals, and he is particularly focused on finding another shoe and performance apparel partner for Clay. He is focused on finding partners who are attracted to the way Clay’s been positioned.

“We’re really looking at the Bryan Clay brand as these four pillars — you have the athlete, you have the speaker, you have the giver, which is the philanthropist, and you have the family man,” Snyder said. “All of the deals we look at are with companies that support his foundation, understand he has three young kids and understand he is an athlete who has to train first.”