Do The Olympics Change Your Life And Make You Rich?

by Brendan Buckley June 23, 2021 4 min read

In less than forty days, surfing will feature in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Everybody is still trying to decipher what, specifically, that means. 

We know a few things. For example, we know that the surfing portion of the Games won’t actually be in Tokyo, but 62 miles away at Tsurigasaki Beach. We know that forty surfers will compete. We know that a few of them are injured and will almost certainly get replaced. 

However, many things are yet to be seen. 

Will it be knee high and serve as disgrace to our sport? Will everyone in the world start surfing? Will the competitors get rich? 

Speculation is easy. 

The handful of seconds that changed Connor Fields’ life.

To cut through it, Stab Founder Sam McIntosh had a conversation with Connor Fields, who won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Connor is a BMX racer and his sport—like ours this year—is a recent addition to the Olympics. 

So, here’s what surfing’s first generation of Olympic gold medalists can expect in terms of finance and more. 

STAB: Would you be able to give us a sense of what the Olympics did for your career?
CONNOR: When your sport gets added into the Olympics, it opens up a lot of opportunities on the non-endemic side. We had always had bike sponsors, energy drinks, gear, the stuff that we were using on a day to day basis. But when you get to the Olympics, there’s so many corporate companies that come into play. 

And how do the sponsorship deals work? 
Teams have their own sponsors. A company will sponsor a team, or sponsor the Olympics as a whole, but they also sponsor athletes as well. It opens up tons of opportunities there that would never be put in front of you if your sport wasn’t in the Olympics. In my sport there’s a couple of athletes who signed deals with companies like AT&T, Toyota, Xfinity, HP and more. And personally, I’ve got a deal with Ralph Lauren. There is a good chance they wouldn’t be interested in us representing them in our sport without the Olympics and the eyeballs that it brings.

A lot of companies will come onboard for about 18 months leading up to the Olympics, then support you for a little bit afterwards, then shift their focus over to the winter games. I was lucky because I won in 2016, so come 2020 I renewed with all my sponsors from 2016 at higher levels because of the success in 2016. 

Did your endemic deals grow with the introduction of BMX in 2008?
I don’t think they grew or shrunk at first. But after winning the Olympics, my endemic deals grew much larger than they would have if I won any other competition. I could win three championships in our domestic circuit, or even a world championship, and that doesn’t carry the same amount of weight as one Olympic gold medal.

How does winning a gold medal compare to winning a world championship? 
I can only speak for myself, but the hardest thing about the Olympics is that it only happens once every four years. There’ll be four world championships that happen for every Olympic gold medal, so there’s less of an opportunity to do it. The top of the top are always at the Olympics, but the depth of field isn’t the same. The Australian freestyle BMX team is the strongest in the world and there’ll be medal-potential athletes that will have to sit at home. You can only compete against those who are there, so you can’t really say that it’s harder or it’s not harder, you can only race who’s on the starting gate, or surf against who’s out on the water you know?

A man and his medal. Connor Fields. Photo: IOC

How do the incentives for a gold medal compare to a world championship? 
That’s a unique one just because there is no branding at the games. But every other sponsorship deal for the podium at the Olympics is significantly bigger. Plus, every country has their own reward system for Olympic athletes. When I won in Rio, it was $25k from Team USA. But then other countries are significantly higher—it depends on the country as well as the governing body of the sport. And this is all public information. Team USA for example, I believe pays $37,500 for a gold, I think it’s like $22,500 for a silver, and like $15,000 for a bronze. They just bumped that up at the most recent games.

On the backside of the 2016 win in Rio, what was the most peculiar deal that came your way? 
There’s a handful of things that come to mind, like autograph signings at different places that I would have never gone to had it not been for the Olympic gold—an example is a deal I had with an RV Company for an appearance and autograph signing. In addition to that, I’ve done some speaking engagements and different things like that. I could walk into a corporate business meeting and say that I was the USA BMX number one pro and that doesn’t mean anything to them, but walking into a business meeting and saying you’re an Olympic gold medalist carries weight.

The post Do The Olympics Change Your Life And Make You Rich? appeared first on Stab Mag.