By Tom Rotunno
The Olympic cauldron is extinguished and the Olympic flag has passed from London to Rio de Janeiro.
For the athletes of the 2012 London Olympic games, the results are in the history books, and for a few of the most amazing athletes, the record books. Now for many of these world class athletes, it's time to temporarily switch their attention away from athletic competition to the corporate boardroom.
|Slideshow: Most Marketable Summer Olympians|
So which Olympians left their mark on the 2012 games and are the biggest names in business? What names will sports marketers and sponsors be looking to sign?
Here’s a look at 10 Olympic athletes you can expect to cash in between now and the start of the next summer Olympics. (Note: To be eligible for consideration, athletes cannot complete in a professional sports league -- so LeBron James, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Misty May Treanor are out.)
The pressure to perform in the Olympics can be tough for any athlete, but imagine being the athletic face of the nation hosting the Games. Such was the pressure facing Jessica Ennis, who had a sponsor, British Airways, go so far as to paint her image on a field near Heathrow Airport with the words "Welcome to Our Turf."
Ennis lived up to the hype, winning gold in the heptathlon, as part of "Super Saturday." In addition to BA, Ennis also has deals with Jaguar, Coca-Cola-owned Powerade, Aviva and Olay, but she is likely to reach a new level after London. Some British sports marketing experts predict Ennis could earn $3 million a year in the lead-up to Rio.
When the conversation focuses on where an athlete falls on the Olympic "legend" scale, there will be no shortage of companies looking to attach themselves to Jamaica's Usain Bolt. As the world's fastest man heading into the London, Bolt was already one of the Olympics' brightest and most marketable stars, and by some estimates he earned more than $20 million in the year leading up to the London Games.
Bolt's primary sponsor is German sportswear company Puma, which pays him $9 million a year. He also has deals with Gatorade, Swiss watchmaker Hublot, Virgin Media, Visa and Nissan Motor, among others. Another four years as the world’s fastest man, Bolt will remain a hot commodity even if he opts not to participate in Rio de Janeiro.
Gabby Douglas epitomizes how a medal-winning performance in the Olympics can turn an athlete from an unknown to international star in just minutes. The gymnast wasn't even on the U.S. Olympic team until March, a time when most Olympic sponsors have already signed their athletes.
Douglas did get a couple of quick deals with Procter & Gamble and Kellogg before London, but her sponsorship slate remains wide open. Don't expect it to remain that way for long.
With a smile as bright as the gold medal she earned in all-around gymnastics, Douglas is not only a hot commodity but an available one in the wake of the London games.
If Phelps leaves the swimming pool behind, there's another swimmer ready to take that spotlight. Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin is poised to be the new face of USA Swimming.
Franklin established herself as a swimming star in London, with four gold medals, including a world record in the 200-meter backstroke. She is entering her senior year in high school and says she plans to compete with her high school team before heading to college and the NCAA.
Remaining an amateur means Franklin is leaving anywhere from $1 million to $2 million on the table right now, but you can bet sponsors will be knocking on her door before the 2016 Games. As a swimmer, Franklin has a long Olympic career in front of her, and sponsors will need to pay a premium when the time comes for her to give up amateur status.
The king stays at the top. London 2012 cemented Phelps' legacy as one of the all-time global sports icons. Phelps leaves London with staggering career numbers -- a record 22 metals, 18 of them gold.
The swimmer says he's hanging it up and won't compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Many of his endorsement deals with the likes of Speedo, Visa, Omega and Nike run through 2016. So even if he's not in the pool, the most-decorated Olympian of all time will remain a top marketing force the next four years.
-- Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.