Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


So Hilton hotels, who otherwise work so hard to keep Paris and Nicky in bling, will sponsor the 2006 Winter Olympics, as of course, will perennial Olympic favorite, MacDonalds.

Of course, odds are that, short of a Dan Jansen-like breakout star emerging from another sport, it's the figure skaters who will reap the biggest rewards from endorsement deals for a wide variety of products, both before and after the Games

For instance, Peggy Fleming, Debi Thomas, the Carrutherses, Tara Lipinski, and Todd Eldredge have all hawked Minute Maid.

Katarina Witt endorsed Swatch, and Chen Lu the Omega Watch.

Elvis Stojko plugged for Cannon and General Mills, while Bourne & Kraatz appeared on a Cheerios box.

Isabelle Duchesnay went to buy a Mazda one day and was asked to be their official spokesperson in Quebec. Even Brian Boitano's coach, Linda Leaver, once secured a spot pitching prunes on television.

In the winter of 1994, Kristi Yamaguchi starred in a Wendy's hamburger commercial with company chairman Dave Thomas, prompting the U.S. Olympic Committee to accuse the chain of "ambushing" the Winter Olympics true fast-food sponsor, McDonalds, who'd paid close to $40 million dollars for the exclusive right to use Olympic rings in their promotion. The Committee claimed Kristi's presence in the ads made it seem like Wendy's was also an official sponsor. (FYI: Burger King is currently offering a hand-held figure-skating game -- while supplies last!)

Four years later, Campbell's Soup, a long-time sponsor of key skating tours and shows, days before the official 1998 U.S. Ladies' Olympic team was crowned at the Nationals, made their preferences known to the world as they barraged the airwaves with a commercial featuring Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, and Nicole Bobek. When that indeed proved to be the U.S. team, ABC commentator Terry Gannon quipped in mock relief, "At least the soup cans are right."

When he was still a Junior, Michael Weiss starred in a FedEx commercial as a young skater at Nationals having trouble with his Double Axel, and needing to call his grandfather for help. Grandpa heads to the local rink, where his wife video-tapes him performing the Double Axel, and off the tape flies to Nationals, courtesy of Federal Express. The ad ran for years.

1979 World Champions Tai Babilonia & Randy Gardner did a commercial for Crunch candy-bars, portraying skaters who fall in competition every time a fan bites her noisy chocolate. Despite the falls, Tai and Randy keep smiling with delight, prompting the judges to reward them with numerous 10s.

1987 U.S. Bronze Medalist Scott Williams appeared in probably the most recognized skating commercial, though his face was never seen. In 1996, Scott was the body-double for Dunkin' Donuts Fred the Baker as he jumped and spun on the ice while clutching a coffee pot. A year later, Scott's then-wife, Canadian Champion Charlene Wong, twirled on TV for a skating Barbie ad, with the doll's image later superimposed over hers. Following the 1998 Olympics, it was Tara Lipinski's turn to twirl alongside Barbie, though her image was quite visible.

In 1995, as the entire skating world shuddered through its pro evolution, Finnish ice-dancers, 1995 World Silver Medalists Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko became the first to take advertising to the next level and, tennis-style, sew their sponsor, Nokia's, logo into Kokko's costume as they competed at the Europeans and Worlds.

At the 1998 Olympics, as Germans Wotzel & Steuer practiced dressed in black outfits with large, white swans drawn on the back, onlookers wondered whether the lovely birds had to do with the theme of their program. And were told no, it was the theme of their sponsor.

As we head into the 2006 Games, Michelle Kwan belongs to Disney, Coca-Cola, and Visa while Sasha Cohen once hawked beef. Meanwhile, over in Japan, sponsors were accused of influencing the selection of the figure skating team.


  • At January 27, 2006 12:39 PM, Anonymous said…

    "Grease" (the musical and the movie) debuted in the 1970's... therefore it fits into the night's theme.


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