Lolo Jones: Video rant about her $741 paycheck backfires (+ video)
Lolo Jones: Her Vine video mocking her paltry paycheck for her bobsledding training has unintentionally put the focus on why Lolo Jones makes the big bucks from endorsements.
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But in calling attention to the disparity in how different sports are funded, Ms. Jones’ video also brings renewed notice to frequent criticisms that her winning public image have earned her more endorsements — including Oakley, Red Bull, Degree, and Asics — than her impressive but waning athletic achievements would suggest.Skip to next paragraph
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Sports endorsements have a lot to do with the sport in question. Golfers and even runners will pull down more money than bobsledders and weightlifters, since those are prime-time sports that command bigger American TV audiences. But endorsements also develop out of a complex, often deeply uncomfortable, calculation that takes into account factors like race, gender, and beauty.
Ms. Jones, a two-time world hurdling champion, is no doubt an enormously talented athlete. But some have at times expressed doubts that her fame and resulting endorsements equal her hurdling wins. In summer 2012, a New York Times article drew ire for noting that Ms. Jones was not a favorite in the 100-meter hurdles at 2012 London Olympic Games: At the 2008 games in Beijing, where she had been a favorite, she had placed seventh in the event, after tripping over most of the hurdles, the article said, noting that she had just made it on to the 2012 team with a third place finish in the trials.
So in 2012, it was her American counterparts Sawn Harper and Kellie Wells who were billed to win that year’s gold. Those athletes, though, were receiving considerably less attention, and both went on to publically deride Ms. Jones after her failure to medal at the games drew more media coverage than their wins.
What Ms.Jones had, and what her competitors didn’t have, was celebrity status, having posed almost naked on the cover of Outside magazine that year and totally nude on the cover of ESPN three years earlier, The New York Times said. Ms. Jones, who has a robust social media presence, had also told HBO that she was a virgin and a Christian.
And so a winning image for sponsorships was born: sexy, and pious. Likely, that was less her fault than that of the media and the public, which heap attention on those who meet certain ideals.
For comparison, take note of Sarah Robles, the highest ranked weightlifter in the United States. In June 2012, she drew media attention when it was discovered that she earned just $400 a month from U.S.A. Weightlifting, with no commercial sponsorships.
“You can get that sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini,” Robles said at the time. "But not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy.”
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