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Will Team GB feel the cost of success?

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David Bond | 08:51 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

The launch of Team GB's Olympic kit might have provoked a debate about Stella McCartney's controversial reconstruction of the Union flag - blue, white and very, very blue - but whatever your assessment, the event once again highlighted the commercial opportunities and pressures which exist in this year of all Olympic years.

Getting the balance right between cashing in and keeping your focus on training is a tricky one to pull off - especially for some of our biggest names like Jessica Ennis, Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington.

Those three are probably Team GB's biggest earners, with seven figure sums up for grabs if they can deliver success at a home Games.

Ennis told me this summer was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" which any athlete had to make the most of.

Team GB posing in their London 2012 kit

Olympic success promises many commercial possibilities for Team GB athletes. Photo: Getty

And who would begrudge her or anyone else in the team? Not me. Most Olympians spend long lonely hours training for their big chance every four years.

For all the excitement that will be generated in the coming weeks and months, the level of interest and the number of commercial opportunities will inevitably fall once the Games are over.

And yet, as the recent experience of diver Tom Daley showed, a perception, even a false one, that an athlete is more interested in photo shoots than training can be extremely damaging.

Despite the warning from British diving's performance director Alexei Evangulov that he had to knuckle down or risk throwing away his chance of success, Daley has just 11 days set aside for commercial and media work this year, hardly that much compared to others.

One leading cyclist has 60 days in the diary while Ennis's coach told me last week she has 40.

Like some of the other big names she has a lot of sponsors to keep happy - eight in total.

She is fortunate that in her coach Toni Minichiello and agent Jayne Cowmeadow she has a team who understand the need to always put her training first.

They know that with her good looks and natural charm she could become our richest ever Olympian after the Games if she can deliver a gold medal.

To illustrate the point that even bigger riches could be waiting around the corner for the team, the British Olympic Association has sent all athletes a new offer to represent them after the Games as part of their Team Members' Agreement.

The optional document, which I've seen, is not aimed at the superstars like Ennis, but competitors from the smaller sports who will always struggle to get their share of the commercial pot even if they win gold.

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The offer sets out how the BOA will guarantee a gold medalist a fee of £6,000 per appearance for the four years from Jan 2013 to December 2016. A silver or bronze will bring in £3,000 per appearance.

The agreement does not preclude athletes signing other sponsorship deals but it is still certain to be turned down by athletes like Hoy and Victoria Pendleton who can make more on their own.

However, what the BOA's move does reflect is the growing scramble for commercial rights after the Games - when the likely fall in sponsorship income will be accompanied by a steady decrease in public money as more Government cuts bite.

Elite Olympic sport is shielded by the lottery until 2015 but who knows what will happen after a General Election and without the incentive of a home Games to plan for?

Even by Olympic standards, London 2012 is shaping up to be to one of the most commercially driven ever. Just look at the number of sponsors the London 2012 organising committee has secured and the £700m it has raised.

Everyone wants a slice of the action and that means, to use marketing parlance, more activation involving the high profile names.

With so much at stake the hope has to be that our athletes don't get too distracted because come July people will worry more about what we're winning and less about what the team is wearing.


  • Comment number 1.

    No comments. Obviously a topic a lot of people are interested in...

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article David, there is clearly a fine balance to be struck for athletes combining their training and promotional responsibilities. Clearly the former should and does dominate their time, but the latter is important to keep the profile of them and their individual events high.
    In terms of the kit, I'd like to simply be of the school of thought that as long as it performs I don't care what it looks like, but I can't help but be a bit disappointed in it!

  • Comment number 3.

  • Comment number 4.

    I do not see any thing favourable in the design of the kit - it looks a pretty poor job - with no inspiration .

    As for the comment by the designer " clearly it is the Union Flag " - no it is not and is a further ' kick in the teeth ' for the English .

    Edwin Rowell

  • Comment number 5.

    Jessica Ennis looks extremely tasty in that little outfit.

  • Comment number 6.

    It used to be about glory but now it is about gravy #hatethekit

  • Comment number 7.

    At the end of the day, the guys and girls need to earn a living. Competitive sports is only for a shortwhile in ones career so these athletes need to seek ways to get a satisfactory income stream for themselves. No one wants to hear that an olympian after gaining success for the country starts collecting dole money. The experienced atlethes themselves know they have to perform to earn success which should lead to a good standard of leaving if they manage their commercial image properly. They decided to do sports themselves. It is not the country, press, or fans that made them go into sports, so its their choice/perogative alone to pursue for commercial success along with their sporting success. I distaste it when i see others making attempts to hound any sportsperson when they seek commericial gains alongside sporting success. The same people that hound our sports people forget that they themselves are in jobs that pay their bills. Our athletes need the commercial success to pay their bills too

  • Comment number 8.

    I wish more of our current prospective Olympians (most are yet to be selected!) showed a little more class.

    Stephanie Cook (Modern Pentathlon Gold Medallist, 2000(?)) could have cashed in on her success (she was a good looker with a fantastic figure) ... Instead she shunned the potential personal riches & returned to her medical degree/career ... that's real class!!

  • Comment number 9.

    It is of no importance but I personally think the kit is good to look at. Very modern looking and I like the transformation of the Union flag into a multi blue affair. The athletes are adorning red footwear and necklines so I think the kit has shimmers of the St George flag, but to moan that there is not enough red in the kit is a little daft if you ask me. The English are not the only nation in the Union flag.

    The technical aspects of the kit sound very interesting from what I have read with Adidas new techniology to give extra performance in the various disciplines on display at the Games.

    Honestly, the amount of people moaning that the athletes are not dressed in colours of their choice shows how far removed people have become from the actual point of the Games which is the participation and with a little luck, skill and judgement, hopefully success in various disciplines on display. The fascination with celebrity culture these days is making people focus on how the athletes look opposed to how they perform. It's very odd.

    Put it this way, if Barcelona start wearing a kit everyone hates, how many people will care about the kit if they keep producing the sensational football that they are so capable of?

    Let's get behind Team GB and forget whether we like or dislike the kit.

  • Comment number 10.

    There must be some way we can turn this into a Manchester United blog??

  • Comment number 11.

    Again a slightly mis leading article. I thought the problmes re Tom Daley revolved around the amount of media/ sponsor work he had done prior to the London test event. Re Jess Ennis she has a rest day figured in to her training and fits media and sponsor stuff around that.

    It has to be a happy medium and lets face it most of their competitors will also be doing the same stuff in their home countries or globally if you are usain bolt.

  • Comment number 12.

    re comment 4: I let out an involuntary exasperated 'Oh God!' when I read your view that there is no inspiration there, that it is a poor design job, not the Union flag and a kick in the teeth to the English. As McEnroe used to say 'You cannot be serious!'. It is a modern take on the flag which in no way kicks me in my English teeth. Even if you don't like the idea, any vaguely design-literate person can see it's been followed through on and executed well. Your views display both ignorance and an unpatriotic dismissiveness towards the creative industries, one of the UK's (and England's) most enduring success stories.

  • Comment number 13.

    @8 Why exactly shouldn't people earn a bit of money - I find your attitude quite snobbish. Not all of them will have a medical degree to fall back on like Steph Cook.

  • Comment number 14.

    all that hardwork and effort to have to put on that embarrassment of a kit. Why would we want a kit designed by someone who was pictured wearing that dress type thing yesterday

  • Comment number 15.

    The real question is how many of these events for Hoy, Ennis etc are from Sponsors already committed to them from much earlier in the Olympic cycle, perhaps sponsors who identified them as 2012 potential in 2005 before these guys knew the pressure they would be under. Infact how much are they being used?

    I just hope they do well, more for themselves, last thing you want it regrets!

  • Comment number 16.

    No problem with top performing athletes earning top dollar from their sporting profile - nobody can argue that they haven't earned the right to maximise what can be a cruelly hard and short career.

    However, invariably grass root sport goes short whilst the bulk of the cash is diverted to a handful of elite athletes (just look at canoeing). Perhaps athletes who have been financially supported from the public purse should repay some of it out of earnings over a certain threshold?

  • Comment number 17.

    Yes, we've supposedly made a fortune selling off commercial rights, but lets be honest here, the main 'partners' have got their names everywhere, a vast amount of free tickets, most of the torch bearers and the best 'free' advertising you can get and they've got all of that for a pittance, in reality we've sold the Olympics soul for a mere 30 pieces of silver, yet another case of selling of the family jewels with little to show for it.
    As for athletes, they deserve to get all they can, I just hope that those who make the most money give some of their time helping to train the next generation.

  • Comment number 18.

    One point about the athletics kit, has the design made allowance for the huge number/name which will be worn on the front of the vest? This will hide the majority of the union flag I reckon.

  • Comment number 19.

    Well have you seen Jessica Ennis wearing it? lovely fit it would seem!

  • Comment number 20.

    honestly who cares what they wear!!! the very notion that anyone does drives me to despair. the olympics should be about sports not fashion.
    As for athletes and their commercial activities surly they are smart enough to realise that if they win gold the more cash they can generate after the games. This should help keep them motivated all the more.

  • Comment number 21.

    Generally tre kit is fine BUT it should be Red in there. It is supposed to be the flag. This is not new, some of the merchandise is the same and frankly I won't buy it for that reason. May be a commercial mistake as well. Remember Euro '96 when England wore grey (not red) against Germany. Nearly all the crowd had bought retro 1966 red tops! Apart from that no issue. Also let's understand there is NO prize money in the Olympics and whilst some can make good endorsement money, others won't. Sailors won't make much and even in Athletics, nor will Discus throwers. I have no problem with them making what they can but remember the real money even for the high profile people still depends on them having a Gold medal so they need to keep focused. Loss of money after the games will be very real. Government funding will probably all but disappear. Athletics has the 2017 World champs which may delay the scythe for a while. London will be a commercial games because it will be good on many levels.

  • Comment number 22.

    For all the people moaning about "not enough red" they should have tuned into the news last night, as it seems as if the athletes have a choice whether to wear all blue, or wear all red.

    It's a kit, which no one except the althetes themselves will be wearing... get over it.

  • Comment number 23.

    Commercialism has been present in world class sport for ages now and it's part of the 'job' of being an athlete. It's the same for all top class performers the world over and if it interferes with any athletes training, then they probably wouldn't/shouldn't be up in the elite class in any case.

    And anyone moaning about 'there's no red' really needs to stop reading blogs about sport and start reading the fashion ones instead.

  • Comment number 24.

    #18. Good point.

    I think the kit design is very poor - we don't need a modern view of the union flag - well not until Scotland decide whether they are going to leave or not. Next we'll need a modern view of all the sailing events and use speed boats instead.

    It's a good job Tracy Emmin didn't design the kit . . . it would have had stains, rips and who knows what dribbled down the front in the name of art and fashion. Oops - I've just told the world how stupid I am not for not "understanding" Modern "Art".

  • Comment number 25.

    The GB kit is the worst for years and years and years and years and years...

  • Comment number 26.

    @tarquini (comment 8) - I think most people would agree that not cashing in on your success is stupid rather than classy. I fail to see how maintaining a low profile is being classy?
    Besides - studying a medical degree she would've had long holidays where she could do plenty of sponsorship work to earn money whilst studying.

    As for the kit - it's terrible. A flag's colours are just as important as it's pattern. Without the same colours it is not the Union Jack. Team GB should have the GB flag on their chest. Not an artistic variation of it

  • Comment number 27.


    Totally agree! Barcelona did (do?) have a horrible away kit (flourescent yellow) yet no-one cared!

    I also am a fan of the 2012 kits.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm not particularly fussed about the blue:red ratio, but I think the kit is bland and poorly done.

    Along with the Olympic Logo and our mascots, they could've done a lot worse than make it a Blue Peter competition (or similar) and open it up to millions of young budding designers.

    And who cares who it was designed by? That's the bit that suggests commercial importance takes priority.

  • Comment number 30.

    Not sure what the fuss is about:

    Sydney 2000 = All blue kit
    Athens 2004 = White and blue, tiny red stripe
    Beijing 2008 = White top, blue shorts

    There's not been much red for years...

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 10

    I think the kits are clearly Alex Ferguson's fault, and why hasn't Jessica Ennis given the "City will crumble" speech yet?

  • Comment number 32.

    Jeez, what a bunch of moaners - starting with Mr David Bond. Can you find anything positive to write about or does it always have to have a negative slant? If there were an Olympic event in finding the cloud in every silver lining, you'd win the gold, hands-down.

    The kit looks great, who cares if our English red has been toned down. We compete as Britain, people.

  • Comment number 33.

    I agree that the kit is awful.

    Instead of spending presumably a lot of money paying a designer for the kit the organisers should have asked Blue Peter to run a competition to design the kit - with prizes to the opening ceremony for the best entries. Cost - virtually nothing. PR - in making it more of a Peoples Games - enormous. Design of Kit - a vast improvement on what they've got!

  • Comment number 34.

    This blog isn't about the kit, it merely mentions it in passing and yet the majority of posts are back on that subject. Demonstrates how emotive it is perhaps but maybe also shows that the real concern around 'cashing in' is more to do with the organisers than the athletes. Using a fashion designer to come up with a trendy t shirt that can be flogged as an over priced designer top by the German manufacturers that are sponsoring the olympic uniform is the really cynical commercialism, the athletes themselves are merely trying to make the most of their very short spell in the limelight.

  • Comment number 35.

    I am so sick of the celebrity culture in this country. Is Stella Mccartney really the best person to design sportswear? NO! Is Danny Boyle really the best person to organise the opening ceremony? NO! There are far more talented unknown people out there who get overlooked because we are so blinded by the "Cool Brittania" attitude in this country. We are not as "cool" or as "hip" as some would like to think.
    As for the Union Jack issue, all i see when i see that flag is pomposity, arrogance, slavery, imperialism, colonialism. To be blunt, i feel shame when i see it, not pride!
    It can be any colour in the world, it still stands for those things in my eyes.
    Also, if those stars want to sell theirselves to the highest bidder just to make a buck, then if they fail at the games, i have no sympathy for them. They should think twice about putting a pound sign on everything before they become little corporate drones. So to respond to David's blog, If they fail, and they have sold theirselves to the highest bidder, i shall laugh and say shame on them, then thank my stars that the flag that stands for everything rotten will not flutter.
    a bit of a rant. but it's my opinion and i am entitled to it, as everyone else is theirs.

  • Comment number 36.

    Multi millionaire sportsmen , multi millionaire footballers , multi millionaire comedians ........ welcome to sport relief , arent these people wonderful and the best examples of humanity . As for the commercial aspects of sports , its a simple and sad fact of life that people try to make money from their success ..... the single big issue with the Olympics is its all about doing it on one day or in one moment otherwise it could be failure ....... as british sportsmen and women have big demands on their time in this olympic year you can sure the competition will be getting their heads down to a single minded focus on success

  • Comment number 37.

    On the possibility of athletes underperforming because of commercial commitments -
    I don't see this as a danger so much as a wonderful opportunity for poetic justice to win out.

    All these athletes with their snouts in the trough deserve nothing but failure in sport. Their natural abilities have presented them with the opportunity to excel and inspire, to act as a symbol of human potential and fulfilment. Instead they've chosen to make themselves salesmen & saleswomen, hawkers & hustlers, whoring out their talents, profile and personality to the highest bidder.

    Corporate concerns are well aware that they can fleece people of low intelligence by exploiting their tendency to idolise sportspeople. But any sportsperson who willingly takes part in this exploitation in order to feather their own nest, is either morally deficient, or - to give them the benefit of the doubt - just not smart enough to see the big picture.

    In either case, I wish them failure. Just as I wish success & happiness to those less greedy & more principled.

  • Comment number 38.

    The Olympics is still carrying along people in a positive manner which is great. I like all the positive exposure and media coverage, it is building up a good tempo.

    That said though, it is costing an arm and leg (its only in budget because the budget kept getting raised), and the whole legacy agenda is a debacle. Don't even mention what happens to the stadium.

    But the tempo is kept up because of great performances from our athletes, whether the rowers, the cyclists, divers, hockey players they all seem to be hitting a nice peak. It allows us to forget what a massive cost this all is.

    As for the kit - I am massively dissapointed - one of the beautiful things about previous kits, is that when you turn on the telly and watch a race, you can instantly spot the red white and blue of the GBR team. This arty attempt at the Union Jack (not flag!) is awful - and does show how the commercial aspect is taken over.

  • Comment number 39.


    couldn't agree more my friend.
    although i happen to believe it is the former and they just don't have any morals mate. hope they get what they deserve.... nothing.

  • Comment number 40.

    It baffles me; what was wrong with the union flag as it it (a bit of red, white and blue). If that doesn't inspire you, you shouldn't be in the game!

  • Comment number 41.

    As long as the gear fits the athletes, is functional and gives them confidence, the that really is all that matters.

    What is more alarming is why have a launch then give them excessive media requirements, interviews, sponsor appearances.....

    Sad, but it is money - meaning that these prime athletes have to dance like performing elephants to the tune of whatever their sponsors wish

  • Comment number 42.

    surely we should be looking at function over fashion??

    for whats its worth, I think the kits look good. Much better than the one that Linford Christie wore back in 1992(?) And at least they have the Union Jack on it. not just some random 'magic eye' design.

    I think the biggest problem with it is that Jessica Ennis' has far too much material!!

  • Comment number 43.

    @ 37

    Or maybe they pander to the sponsors because once the Olympics has finsihed, they have to go back to training for the rest of the season and for next year.

    And who pays for them to be able to train? Certainly not you!

    Maybe they do it because they love the sport, are excellent at it and its the only way of being able to fund their training needs.

  • Comment number 44.

    I am amazed at the number of negative and apparently self-indulgent and self-opinionated responses here... Reading this stream makes me feel quite shocked! It appears that so many people just like what they know - and shun ideas that evolve and develop a theme whilst still retaining the core essence at the heart of the theme. The kit design looks great! Well done Stella Mac. It is more "GB" than most recent kits - if you bother to actually know about what you are talking about!

    And good luck to all the athletes - people who commit so much of their (and their family's) lives to strive for success in their chosen sport - and forgo so much in life that everyone else takes for granted...
    And as far as making money - good luck to those who make the commitment and excel...
    And thank you to the sponsors who help sportsmen make their sacrifices...
    Good luck team GB

  • Comment number 45.

    There are only 2 blogs of any value here: #3 and #33. The rest are self indulgent rants.

  • Comment number 46.

    Kit aside, our country had an opportunity with the Olympics to showcase our nation - the theme being 'the people's Olympics'. 90% of tickets could have gone to the public, the opening & closing ceremonies could have been decided by public competition, the kit (not aside anymore) as #33 suggested could have been designed by competition, the laughable logo, and so on.
    Okay we have some public involvement, for instance the torch bearers. But it could have been so so much better...a beacon to the world on how to stage a multi national event (an example to FIFA perhaps?).

  • Comment number 47.

    Olympic 2012 is not about sport, and given how many of the tickets are going to big business, it is certainly not for the benefit of the UK population. We just get to subsidise an enormous advert for the big global brands. Well done ZanuLabour for wasting another £10billion.

    As for the kit, the arts community had their cut, with disastrous results (the "art" produced to mark 2012 will go down as the worst in olympic history), now we get to fork out some cash to a fashion designer as well. No doubt before the thing starts we will have reoped in the likes of Coldplay and Keane to provide some predictable tedious elevator music.

    Interesting point about commercial activities - disappointing to see that we are getting our excuses in early.

  • Comment number 48.

    Why are people moaning about the flag? "It's not got red so it's not English"... I am Welsh and unless you hadn't noticed, there is NOTHING from Wales in the Union flag. Stop moaning, get behind the team and support the hell out of them. Stop bleating about not having any red you bunch of idiots!

  • Comment number 49.

    Typical BBC and typical know it all about sport Bond. Why do they have to voice the negative opinion when it comes to our major sporting issues which then invites people such as GK #37 and MEANSOFBEAMS #35 to spout their anti English/British sentiments and pour scorn on any sportsperson who dares to try and do well for themself. MEANSOFBEAMS...If the country is that abhorrent to you just leave (assuming you already haven't). GK what would you have the athletes wear? Maybe the kit from 'Chariots of fire'! The combined lack of grace from you two is breathtaking...I dare say that our athletes would be much better off without your support.

    Personally I think the kit is great, Stella McCartney has done a super job. I also hope that every athlete is successful and then afterwards feathers their nest as much as they can, their dedication to their chosen sport is admirable and I suspect that many of them could do without the distractions that come with the territory. Good luck team GB, do us proud.

  • Comment number 50.

    @49 antismith. i hate this country so much because i love this country so much. although i wouldn't expect a sheep like you to understand that. all i see everywhere i turn is the sickening commercialism that infests this country and the sportspeople willing to forget about the sweatshops and low pay of the people who actually make this clothing, just so they can make a fast buck. I on the other hand do care about these people who are exploited to make vast profits for the multi-nationals.
    same reason i hate the flag mate, because it makes me think of all the inhumanity.
    so please let me have my opinion and i shall let you have yours and if we leave each other be and let us speak our minds i may even refrain from accusing you of being just another member of the bewildered herd, who don't have the intellect to form their own opinions, but instead get fed them by newspaper columnist's and bias news corporations.

  • Comment number 51.

    Oh deary me. This is the main issue I have with 'the internet'. People who would normally only be able to inflict their complaints on 'friends' down the pub or unfortunate family members can now expound on the internet. I quite like it in a perverse way as it helps me to remember that most people never take the opportunity to define their own lives but instead like to think the the government or big corporations have spolied their lives.

    Grow some and look after yourselves.

    PS cool kit; at least as the athletes are running around the track the kit will stand out from the US, France, Russia, Cuba, Holland........ making it easier for this myopic old soul to spot them!

  • Comment number 52.

    @51 STICK

  • Comment number 53.

    This is one of the most depressing articles I have read.

    One- the kit is secondary to the whole picture. The guys and girls have to wear something and the kit designer won't pleased everyone

    Two- these guys aren't on footballers wages, they are living of lottery grant and need to take money wherever they can.

    I will hand on my heart be cheering on every single on of our competitors during the summer and no doubt some of the hypocrites above will be doing the same. The games are not going to be held in our country again in our life time so we do what we can to make the most of it.

    As fat as I am concerned they can wear nothing but pink tutus and get paid for it as long as they represent our nation with pride and do th best the can do

    Rant over....

  • Comment number 54.

    i forgot that nobody is allowed there own opinions anymore. you are free to do as we tell you! you are free to as we tell you! jesus. what a sad world. i for one am not a hypocrite, i shall be cheering for nobody because i will not even be watching.i for one have better things to do because i have a life.


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