From 'Hunger Games' to 'Call Me Maybe,' how athletes sell Olympic sports (+video)
Athletes at the London Games don't just have to be world class, they often have to be salesmen for sports that slip into obscurity after the Olympics are over.
(Page 2 of 2)
For years, US archery has done the outreach thing: demonstrations at San Diego Padres baseball games, clinics for kids in local schools, and so on. Then, in an Olympic year, Hollywood fired off three blockbusters with main characters who are archers – "The Hunger Games," "Brave," and "The Avengers" – and archery suddenly had the publicity that only Hollywood's billions could buy.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Today at the Olympics
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Lionsgate, the film studio behind "The Hunger Games," brought in the US archery team for a photo shoot connected with the DVD release, and Disney/Pixar offered a special advance screening of "Brave" at an archery event in Utah.
Archery sees a surge
Even before the Olympics, at which the US has already won one medal and could win more, membership in USA Archery was up 20 percent from December. The surge is coming largely from youths and teenagers. In 2001, the USA Archery national championships had 171 participants in its youth divisions. This year, it had 357.
Morehouse, however, has no hope of Katniss Everdeen becoming a fencer in the "Hunger Games" sequels, so he has his own Hollywood dreams. "I have a dream where someone will go crazy on the subway, and I'll outduel him and save everyone on the train," he said with a broad grin at a media summit in May.
Until that happy moment, Morehouse is concentrating on other steps to promote fencing – ones that might make dueling a crazed madman on the New York subway seem easy by comparison. They involve involve a lot of meetings with marketers and potential corporate sponsors for his Fencing Masters tournament.
They also involve a lot of patience.
"I hear 'no' more than I hear 'yes,' " he said. "But there's a method to doing this – just like being an Olympian."
And as in training for the Olympics, that means not giving up. His measure of victory? He's increasingly hearing "no" from people farther up the corporate food chain. And he's having fun.
"I like the production of how to make fencing look good on TV," he said.
Train first, promote second
For some Olympians, the process of being both world-class athlete and carnival hucksters can be wearing.
"I want to be an ambassador for the sport – I do enjoy doing that," said archer Brady Ellison, a gold-medal favorite in the individual event Friday, at a press conference. "But there's a fine line between promoting and still being able to train at a level where I'm able to shoot like I need to."
Yet for Morehouse, selling fencing has become as much a passion as fencing itself. Ahead of the London Games, he reached out to Queen Elizabeth's official duelist (yes, she has one), hoping the gentleman could take some part in the ceremonies. (He can't.) He knows Mark Zuckerberg was once a fencer and has reach out to him, too. He even lets TSA agents try on his mask for fun at customs.
"I can do something bigger," he said. "I want to get millions of kids fencing in my lifetime."