February 23, 2010
Olympians often secure endorsement deals after winning gold, but the scenario is reversed for South Korean figure skater Yu-Na Kim. Already hugely popular in her home country, Kim is under enormous pressure to win gold – or those lucrative sponsorship contracts may not continue.
As the reigning world champion and Grand Prix champion, she is expected to win gold in Vancouver this week. But if the fickleness of skating and tough competition from Japanese skaters knock her off the medals podium, she will probably lose her sponsorship deals.
Kim's face is already everywhere in South Korea, in advertising for everything from Hyundai cars to government promotions. If she can't win, the perception will be that she spent too much time shooting commercials and not enough time skating, Reuters reports.
"If she won the silver or bronze medal, many Koreans would encourage or console her. However, if she can’t receive any medal, there will be a strong backlash," said Lee Chang-sik, an expert on sports marketing at the South Korea communications firm KPR & Associates.
Plenty of competitors could take Kim out of the endorsement game. Mao Asada of Japan, one of Kim's fiercest rivals, is capable of throwing a triple axel, something no other competitor is likely to try. And Japanese skaters Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki as well as Canada's Joannie Rochette pose a formidable challenge.
Kim is already a millionaire. Forbes reported that she made $8 million in endorsements. But that will all come crashing down if she comes crashing down on the ice.
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