Long-jumper Mike Powell shattered track and field’s most enduring record on Friday. But moving into the elite ranks in sports marketing would be an even greater leap, experts said.
Powell, 27, a Alta Loma resident and 1988 Olympic silver medalist, simultaneously erased Bob Beamon’s 23-year-old world record and Carl Lewis’ 10-year winning streak with a long jump of 29 feet, 4 1/2 inches at the World Championships of track and field in Tokyo.
The feat earned Powell his single biggest pay day--$55,000 in bonus money from Foot Locker, the athletic shoe retailer that is his top sponsor.
It also may triple the appearance money he commands from European track promoters, to $25,000 or $30,000 per event.
However, the jump will not raise Powell to anywhere near the level of basketball’s Michael Jordan, hockey’s Wayne Gretzky or tennis’ Monica Seles, all of whom earn millions in endorsement income.
The hard fact is, track and field doesn’t sell.
“He’ll get some interest from track shoes and sports-related clothing people, but that’s about it for now--it’s a pity,” said David Burns, who runs a Chicago-based sports celebrity booking firm.
Steve Miller, director of track and field marketing for Nike, whose shoes Powell wears, said that although Powell had broken “one of the greatest records of all time,” track and field lags far behind other sports in the amount of exposure--and money--it generates in the United States.
Brad Hunt, Powell’s agent at Advantage International, a Washington-based sports agency, was more optimistic.
“We have a week or so to capitalize on the attention that this leap has gotten him,” Hunt said in a conversation from Tokyo Friday.
Powell isn’t uncooperative.
“The first thing he said to me when he got off the track was, ‘Arsenio,’ ” Hunt said, explaining that Powell had a standing invitation from talk-show host Arsenio Hall to appear on the show if he broke the record.
As Powell was finishing an exhausting series of interviews that lasted well into the night in Tokyo, his agent’s colleagues woke up this morning in Washington trying to figure out how to parlay the astonishing jump into astonishing deals. Powell now does promotions for Foot Locker and a sports equipment company.
Advantage International spokeswoman Meredith Geisler said Powell was quickly booked onto “CBS This Morning” and was likely to appear on several other shows.
Working against the promotional efforts was a decision by NBC Sports, which is carrying the World Championships, to withhold film of Powell’s leap until its late-night coverage began at 9:30 p.m. PDT Friday--more than 17 hours after it happened.