Thursday, February 14, 2002
Canadians gaining for attention in controversy
By Darren Rovell
Just ask Craig Fenech, agent to Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. The Canadian pair won the silver medal amidst much controversy on Monday night, but thanks to appeal, were awarded a dual gold on Friday.
"Losing a gold medal usually doesn't make you more high profile than winning one," said Fenech, who admits he knew nothing about the sport until he signed the pair a year ago. "But this has been anything but normal. This could be the biggest story in the history of skating."
Fenech told ESPN.com Thursday night that he didn't necessarily feel that winning the gold would make the group more marketable, but others disagree.
"Winning the gold for them was the difference between making significant money and not making money," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports, a company that links athletes with companies for endorsements. "Getting the silver might have gotten them the attention, but advertisers want to associate their product or service with winners."
Fenech knows how much the pair's visibility has increased since they initally lost the gold to the Russian team of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. Fenech says he's been averaging 150 to 200 calls a day "calling from as far away as Australia" from the media and interested companies seeking endorsement opportunities since the performance.
Thanks to the gold, the pair -- which has endorsement deals with General Mills and Mastercard -- should be able to score more lucrative deals. Williams said the couple could earn in between $500,000 and $1 million over the next year. The silver, Williams said, would only be worth about $100,000 in deals. The pairs' rate for skating tours also should rise.
How hot are Sale and Pelletier?
Eight newspaper clippings of the pair sold for $25.25 on eBay Thursday afternoon. Another lot of media clippings -- which includes the increasingly popular April 2, 2001 cover of MacLean's Magazine of the two in a loving embrace -- has received 16 bids in the last two days alone.
Bids on 8-by-10 pictures posted Friday afternoon are also rising.
From Feb. 11 -- the night they skated -- through Wednesday night, 1,200 U.S. news stations aired stories containing Sale's name, according to Mark Davis of VMS, a broadcast monitoring service. Only 435 stories mentioned her gold medal-winning counterpart, Berezhnaya, Davis said.
Searches on the internet for Sale's name are skyrocketing. Web searches, on popular search engine Google.com, of Sale's name increased by 250 times from Monday to Tuesday. On Wednesday, those numbers more than doubled again, increasing to more than 290 times that of the previous day.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.