For her first major endorsement deal since winning two gold medals in the London Olympics, Aly Raisman chose something familiar: Poland Spring Brand 100% Natural Spring Water.
The local gymnast and Maine beverages company announced a one-year sponsorship deal Monday outside Needham Town Hall, which sported a banner congratulating the 18-year-old for her gold and bronze medals.
“I’ve been using Poland Spring water for so many years, so it’s an honor they’d want to work with me,” Raisman said at the event. “Plus they’re from New England, so it’s really exciting.”
Poland Spring, which is owned by Nestle Waters North America, said it is still working out details of Raisman’s endorsement, including whether she will appear on water bottles or in TV and print ads. The company did not disclose the terms of the deal.
Though Poland Spring markets its products through major league sporting organizations such as the Boston Red Sox, the company has done little in the way of backing individual sports figures; Raisman is just the second athlete Poland Spring has retained for endorsement, behind marathoner Josh Cox.
Seona Skwara, a senior marketing manager at Poland Spring, said the company was drawn to Raisman by her work ethic and personality.
“She’s an inspiration for so many people, but it’s also how she got to where she got to, and that’s by putting in a lot of hard work and effort to really achieve her personal best,” Skwara said.
“That combined with her down-to-earth, genuine character is what the brand looks for,” Skwara added.
Raisman’s business career has been off to a torrid start in the 10 days since the close of the London Olympics, where she and her teammates, dubbed the Fierce Five, scored an impressive haul of medals. The gymnasts have appeared on various television talk shows and are scheduled to barnstorm the country as part of the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions.
Olympic broadcaster NBC covered the Games’ gymnastics competitions extensively, increasing the team’s sponsorship potential with weeks of prime-time television exposure.
“There’s only a couple sports you can pull athletes from, and gymnastics is probably at the top of the list,” said Jeff Long, president of sports agency and consultancy Pattison Sports Group. “They’re on TV night after night and night. NBC builds these people into natural endorsers.”
At the Poland Spring event Tuesday, Raisman said her agent has received other sponsorship offers, but declined to name the companies.
“I’ve gotten a couple things, but this is the first thing I’ve done since the Olympics, so it’s even more special,” she said.
Raisman’s agent, Peter Carlisle of the Octagon agency, said he “absolutely” thinks Raisman is a national star who can pull down big deals, and predicted more sponsorship announcements would follow. Before the Olympics, Raisman struck deals with Polo Ralph Lauren, leotard-maker GK Elite Sportswear, Kellogg’s, and the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board of the “Got Milk?” ads.
Long is among those sports analysts who expect Raisman to eventually ink deals with national advertisers.
“She’s young and she seems celebrity-attractive, so she’ll be out there getting seen, getting photographed with different things in her hands and on her clothing. She’s going to be somebody who’s a magnet” for national brands like BMW, McDonald’s, or Target, Long said.
But other sports-marketing analysts believe Raisman’s appeal so far is more limited, as she has not achieved the status of Olympic giants such as swimmer Michael Phelps and runner Usain Bolt, who tend to gobble up the most lucrative sponsorships.
“The odds are probably against a big national campaign” for Raisman, said Jim Andrews, a senior vice president at Chicago-based sponsorship consultancy IEG. “We’ll see more regional deals and smaller deals that may not involve TV ads, but maybe hiring her to come do meet-and-greets, motivational speeches, that kind of thing.”
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Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect name for Aly Raisman’s agent. His name is Peter Carlisle.