Back Home

Phelps by a Head (& Shoulders)

Phelps by a Head (& Shoulders)

By Terry Lefton & Tripp Mickle, Staff Writers

Published

Procter & Gamble has signed Olympian Michael Phelps to a seven-figure endorsement deal for its billion-dollar Head & Shoulders shampoo brand.

Phelps is signed through next year’s Summer Games in London and will be featured in a commercial, which was shot in Baltimore last month, according to sources.

Officials at P&G and Octagon, which represents Phelps, declined to comment.

The signing is the first major endorsement that a P&G brand has closed since the company signed a 10-year, multimillion-dollar deal in 2010 to become a worldwide Olympic sponsor. Both P&G and Head & Shoulders have added sports to their marketing after years of eschewing sponsorship spending in favor of large media buys. In recent years, the company also has added sponsorships with the NFL and MLB and paired them with its Gillette and Head & Shoulders brands.

Phelps’ global recognition should help P&G as it tries to leverage the Olympics to achieve its goal of increasing its customer base from 4 billion to 5 billion consumers in the next five years. He joins a roster of athlete endorsers for Head & Shoulders that includes Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

Subway is among Phelps’ other endorsement deals.
Head & Shoulders joins a Phelps sponsor list that includes Speedo, Under Armor, Hilton, 505 Games, Hewlett-Packard, Subway, Omega, Pure Sport, Visa and, most recently, Master Spas, which makes spas for swim training. His deals start at a minimum of $1 million.

In the run-up to the London Games, Octagon is focused on signing Phelps to deals with global companies that are committed to using him in international markets. The London Olympics could be his last, and raising his profile internationally would go a long way to increasing his earnings potential after he finishes competing in the pool.

The signing with Head & Shoulders should help Phelps with that goal. The brand is distributed in markets stretching from Europe to China.

Phelps and Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter, were the biggest stars to emerge during the Beijing Games. The Baltimore-born swimmer signed a series of endorsement deals following his eight-gold-medal performance at the Beijing Games. After those Olympics, Kellogg’s, Mazda and Subway signed him and began promoting him at retail and on TV.

His endorsement future appeared bright, but his reputation and brand image took a hit when a photo surfaced six months after the 2008 Olympics that showed him smoking marijuana. After that revelation, sponsors like Kellogg’s and Subway were asked repeatedly by media if they would drop Phelps as an endorser. Mazda asked him to record a video apology for the incident, and Kellogg’s did not renew its deal with the swimmer.

Phelps bounced back in 2010 by signing deals with Under Armour and Master Spas. 505 Games in February also released “Push the Limit,” a swimming video game that features Phelps.

P&G first signed on as a partner of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2009, and it saw 18 brands incorporate the Olympics into their marketing efforts during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. The centerpiece of the company’s marketing efforts was a “Thanks Mom” campaign that saw P&G help defray the costs that mothers of Team USA members paid to travel to the Games.

Head & Shoulders was one of nearly 32 P&G brands that didn’t incorporate the Olympics into its marketing that winter. Its signing of Phelps suggests that more P&G brands will use the Olympics in marketing next summer than did so in 2010.

GMR handles sports marketing for P&G, while Platinum Rye handles athlete negotiations for the consumer products giant.