Olympic swimmers and divers have lent their names to myriad industry causes and companies over the years, whether it’s serving as a product spokesperson, attending trade shows or speaking with the press about the importance of pool and spa safety.
“There’s no question it’s been huge for us,” says Bob Lauter, CEO of Master Spas in Ft. Wayne, Ind., about his company’s spokesperson deal with Michael Phelps.
Other firms such as Pentair, which worked with Amanda Beard for trade show appearances, said they would strongly consider using Olympic athletes again in their promotional efforts.
An Olympic athlete not only brings enhanced credibility to an organization, but also helps draw consumer interest, which can be especially helpful when launching a new product or campaign. Here’s a look at six memorable swimmers and divers who’ve contributed to the world of pools and spas.
Games: Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008)
Results: Six gold and two bronze medals in Athens, and eight gold medals in Beijing Phelps holds the all-time Olympic record for gold medals, and his winning streak looks likely to continue at this summer’s Games. With his involvement as a spokesperson for Master Spas, he’s also helped to raise the profile of swim spas.
The company actually installed one of their swim spas at Phelps’ training facility to get input from the swimmer, Lauter says, and then based a new model — which Phelps still uses — on his feedback.
Phelps’ involvement with the brand extends past the usual appearances at trade shows and dealer events. “I didn’t have an interest in someone who would just put his name on the product,” Lauter explains. “But he’s been really involved and the coach is really involved. They’re excited and committed about the product, and he wants to advance the sport of swimming.”
Games: Montreal (1976), Los Angeles (1984), Seoul (1988)
Results: One silver medal in Montreal, two gold medals in Los Angeles and two gold medals in Seoul Louganis is widely recognized as one of the greatest all-time divers, winning a gold even after his head struck the springboard during the 1988 preliminaries.
Louganis took this experience and served as a spokesperson for NSPI (now APSP) to raise awareness for diving safety in the 1980s and ’90s.
Bill Kent, president of Team Horner, was chairman of a national committee for NSPI that hired Louganis. “In the 1980s, a big challenge was diving safety,” Kent says. “We hired Greg as a spokesperson and worked with him extensively. He was a very effective spokesperson for the industry and was great as far as representing what we wanted to do in terms of education.”
Games: Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972)
Results: Two gold, one silver and one bronze medal in Mexico City, and seven gold medals in Munich Although Spitz retired from competition at age 22, he became one of swimming’s most legendary athletes, holding the record for the most gold medals in any Olympics until Phelps beat it in 2008.
Spitz worked with NSPI over the years as part of his efforts to promote the sport, and in 2003 he joined the board of directors at aquatic exercise device company Novations, LLC.
Arlene Stachel, co-owner of Mt. Lake Pool & Patio in Doylestown, Pa., served as president of NSPI in 1997 and traveled with both Spitz and Louganis.
“I think they both helped a lot of people, especially at the YMCAs,” Stachel says. “They really encouraged young people to learn how to win. Not just get in the water and play, but get in and swim and learn to be a real Olympic athlete.”
Games: Paris (1924), Amsterdam (1928)
Events: Swimming and water polo
Results: Three gold medals in Paris for swimming and one bronze for water polo, and two gold medals in Amsterdam for swimming Weissmuller capitalized on his success as an Olympic athlete to become a movie star, best known for his role as Tarzan, whom he played in more than 20 films.
He also starred with Esther Williams in the aquatic musical “Billy Rose’s Aquacade” during the New York World’s Fair in 1939; later, they both lent their names to a line of aboveground pools for Delair. The popular pool lines were sold throughout the United States until Delair’s pool business was bought out by Wilbar International in 2009, and the rights to the Williams and Weissmuller name brands were not purchased.
Weissmuller also served as a spokesperson for BVD swimwear, and was a founding chairman of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Games: Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008)
Results: One gold and two silver in Atlanta, one bronze medal in Sydney, one gold and two silver medals in Athens Even though she’s all grown up, most of us still remember Beard as a 14-year-old kid holding her teddy bear on the Olympic podium at the 1996 Games.
Since then, Beard has starred in commercials and in modeling shoots, and also made promotional appearances in the pool and spa industry. Carlos Del Amo, VP of Global Marketing for Pentair, worked with Beard at two trade shows.
“Having her absolutely drummed up interest in our booth at those shows; people were lined up for 30 minutes waiting to meet her,” Del Amo says. “It was so refreshing to have someone who was a non-professional athlete and a superstar but with a great demeanor.”
Games: Seoul (1988), Barcelona (1992)
Results: Three gold medals in Seoul, one gold and one silver medal in Barcelona Evans broke three swimming world records when she was only 15, so it was no wonder that she held the Olympic record for the 800-meter freestyle until 2008.
In 2010 and 2011, Evans used her Olympic fame to help the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) spread the word during press events about practicing water safety.
“Janet sat for multiple interviews and even jumped in the pool and gave some safety tips,” says Kathleen Reilly, public affairs specialist for the CPSC. “She spoke about pool safety issues as a mother and an Olympian. It was really useful to have her as a spokesperson; she has a lot of credibility.”