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The sponsors’ seamless support for Simone Biles

One of the great moments of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has been the press conference in which Simone Biles conveyed to public opinion the “demons” that she had in her head and that have prevented her from competing at the level expected of her . “I must do what is good for me and focus on my mental health,” said the great winner in the artistic gymnastics of Rio 2016 bluntly at the most media press conference of the event, with her main sponsors as a neutral backdrop of a confession that has become his greatest moment of exposure Cayman Islands Email Address.

In the run-up to the Games, Biles, as a result of the multiple sponsorship agreements that she had signed, was the protagonist of announcements from important Tokyo 2020 partners such as Visa. The gymnast stars in a still-broadcast commercial built under the message “make it as easy as Simone”, where she compares the simplicity with which the athlete executes her numbers with Visa payment methods.

In April, the Olympic champion broke her contract with Nike to sign for Athleta, a Gap-owned sportswear firm focused on women. The agreement was moved as a partnership with which they hope to “empower the next generation of girls.” Biles stated at the time that she felt that it was not just “about my achievements, it is what I represented and how my voice was going to help me and also to be a voice for women and children.” The gymnast also defended that Athleta was going to support her “not only as an athlete, but as a woman outside the gym, championing the change I want to lead.”

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The communication of this contract made it very clear the terms in which sports sponsorship is currently articulated, beyond the immediate present of ephemeral titles. Therefore, when the media and public opinion approached Simone Biles’s current sponsors to ask them about the impact that abandonment of her could have on her balance sheet, they were unanimous in their support. And they did so for several reasons: on the one hand, it would have been a negative blow to leave aside a protagonist who has once again put the debate on mental health on the social table. On the other, more commercial, the media impact of the situation experienced by Biles has been even greater than if she had complied with the triumphalist routine that I expected from her.

This is the case of Kyle Andrew, Athleta Brand Director, who said that the textile manufacturer will support Biles and her well-being “both in and out of competition.” For his part, Visa spoke of an “incredibly courageous decision by an athlete capable of inspiring both on and off the mat.”

Along the same lines, Core Power, a brand of protein shakes that is also linked to Biles, and that through her Twitter account said she was amazed “every day” by what they consider to be “the best of all time ”.

He did the same shortly after the confession of Simone Biles, another of the important sponsors of the North American team such as United Airlnes, a company that declares its admiration for Biles, “not only for his world-class talent, but for the person he is every day” . Finally, Uber Eats, which has also had Biles as a prescriber of ads for its series “Tonight, I’ll Be Eating,” highlighted the strength “both inside and outside the gym that Biles treasures, setting an incredible example to the athletes of all the world”.

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These reactions to Simone Biles’ public declaration of weakness reinforce the long-standing portrait of elite athletes, who are more than just a body or a face holding up a product to recommend its purchase. They are, in themselves, their own brands whose contrasts are the ones that generate the most engagement. The case of Biles is not isolated and it is enough to go to another of the protagonists of the Olympic event, Naomi Osaka, a Japanese tennis player in charge of lighting the Olympic cauldron in Tokyo.

In June this year, Osaka announced that she was withdrawing from Roland Garros also alluding to mental health issues. The organization of the event fined the tennis player $ 15,000 for refusing to speak to the media. Far from being criticized for this decision, the Olympian received innumerable expressions of support on social networks, although, as in the case of Biles, there were those who raised their voices and called her unprofessional, incapable of tackling the challenges of a competitive position .

On this occasion there was no disbandment of sponsors, who reinforced her empathic bond with the athlete. Although in both the Biles and Osaka situations, some sponsorship experts raise the question of how long the big brands can sustain an athlete who is not able to get out of a tipping point socialposts.

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