T Nation

Money in Niche Sports


#1

I've read several references in the past few days to the wealth of certain olympic athletes - Bode Miller for one, and an article I read on Sasha Cohen implied that she had bought the house (i believe on the ocean) that she and her mother lived in. Here's my question: where is this money coming from for - what I had believe to be - niche sports? Is it SOLELY from sponsors willing to pay for the wall-to-wall media coverage from the olympics - even though that's only once every four years? Is it coming from other parts of the world where the sports are bigger?

It strikes me as strange that there is obviously money for these niche sports but not for, say, powerlifting; unless I'm just vastly underestimating teh popularity of figure skating...


#2

If you are at the top you can make good money in any sport. Shane Hammon (weightlifting) got 8th place or something like that in the olympics and he has a huge house in Oklahoma. After the olympics it is a quick sprint to make as much money as you can. You make personal appearences, try to get commercials, speak at schools, do seminars on training, whatever. That one Asian professional eater made over a million in one year. A lot of the money comes from sponsors. Even if you are not a huge national star you can make money. Think about it, if you just go to the olympics you will probably be a hometown hero and you can get hometown sponsors and commercials, and public appearences, I once saw a former chicago bears player (tom waddle) make an appearence at a tire store. For small local bussinesses any advertising is good advertising. And if you are at the top of your field you are a star in that field even if it is a small following. If you are a shot putter you endorse shots, or throwing shoes, or nutritional supps, or equipment or whatever throwers like to buy. There is this rowing club who trains in our olympic development center and their coach is the king of booster clubs. He hustles local bussinesses for sponsorship all over the place, and they are happy to give money because because they get advertising on suits, t-shirts and posters for events, and it is a tax write-off for them. Also Sports like skiing, skating and track and field have a bigger following in Europe. I know they actually pay track athletes to come to Europe and compete so they can sell tickets. I think Michael Johnson was being paid about a quater mil. for one race. On the other hand a lot of athletes who might be good enough for the olympics but not the top American or a medal contender in thier sport might make close to nothing. Most live in a resident program and get a stipend of only about 500-1000 a month. Or they get an O-job, they work at home depot and the USOC matches thier pay. There are lots of athletes living this way who are on the national and world teams but will never make it to the olympics. One of those gymnastics girls was delivering pizzas until Pam Anderson sponsored her until she made the olympic team.


#3

Also another thing I forgot was prize money. The USOC gives incentives for athletes to win. So winning the Pan Am games you might get 10 grand for winning some sports more or less. American records get you money, world records get you a ton of money. I think in weightlifting it is a half million or something like that. All those sponsors like Mcdonalds give money to the USOC and they devide it amoung the sports organizations. Some get a lot and some get very little. But I think the money that the USOC has pales in comparison to what government subsidized programs like the Chinese programs get.


#4

Well, as far as Bode Miller is concerned, there is quite a lot of money in skiing. For each race won in the World Cup you get between 20-50 000 Euros. That is only the prize money.

Also, the ski and ski equipment manufacturers sponsor skiers quite heavily with additional bonuses for top places.

I think Bode Miller made a big sponsorhip promoting the "Barilla" pasta.