Skater's career takes a big leap

Bel Air's Meissner signs 3 ad deals, will perform in ice show

January 31, 2007|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Sun reporter

Three days after winning the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, Kimmie Meissner of Bel Air has agreed to three major endorsement deals and an ice show tour.

She will appear in national Subway commercials, including spots with the NFL's Reggie Bush, a New Orleans Saints running back, and she also will do promotional work for Visa and Under Armour, the Baltimore-based athletic clothing company.

Meissner, who will be on NBC's Today show this morning in the 8:30 segment, also will skate in 14 cities as part of the Champions on Ice tour and three dates in Florida with the rival Stars on Ice tour.

FOR THE RECORD - A Page 1A article yesterday about figure skater Kimmie Meissner's endorsement deals incorrectly described her Subway commercial. Her television spot is one of a series that includes NFL player Reggie Bush, but she is not in the commercial with the New Orleans Saints running back.
The Sun regrets the errors.

The high-profile deals are in stark contrast to the level of interest that followed her surprising win of the world title last March. The 17-year-old skated a few shows, did a regional Subway commercial and spent a lot of time doing charitable work with pediatric cancer patients.

Yuki Saegusa, Meissner's agent and vice president of IMG, would not disclose the length of the new deals or their value, and other agents declined to speculate.

Meissner is expected to be one of the top U.S. skaters at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. Experts say that will make her valuable as companies start choosing athletes leading up to the event. The trend used to be to wait to see who won the gold medal and then race to sign that athlete. Now companies want to get ahead of the curve.

"Everyone is trying to see who's going to be the next big thing. Now you try to pick someone you think will do well," said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director for San Francisco-based Pickett Advertising and author of the Sports Marketers' Scouting Report. "It's definitely a crap shoot, but it's a risk an advertiser takes."

Companies like figure skaters because they perform in the Winter Olympics' marquee event. A skater is a safer bet than some other athletes because most tour with ice shows, giving them a longer time in the spotlight, he said.

"Unless you have Tonya Harding, you really don't have much to worry about," Dorfman said, referring to the U.S. champion who was stripped of her title for her part in an attack on skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.

Bill Kraus, senior vice president of Under Armour, called his company's multiyear deal with Meissner "a natural fit."

"She's a wonderful representative," he said. "We love her energy, enthusiasm and the passion she brings to her sport. ... When you have an athlete who is as comfortable in our product as she is, the relationship blossomed."

In Under Armour and Subway, Meissner has chosen products she uses. She eats a Subway turkey sub with carrot sticks every day and wears Under Armour shirts.

Yesterday, Meissner was on a New York sound stage making a Subway commercial with Jared Fogle, the spokesman who made fast food sound healthy.

"I hope I won't have to hold up a big pair of pants," the 100-pound Meissner playfully fretted before the shooting.

She didn't have to. Instead, she bantered with Fogle about eating Subway every day, something both of them did even before becoming spokespersons.

Skater Michelle Kwan, the nine-time U.S. champion and five-time world title holder, earns about $1 million a year from endorsements and has deals with Coca-Cola, Visa and AT&T, according to CNNMoney.com and news reports after the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Olympic gold medalist Dorothy Hamill, who lives in the area, is still a sought-after endorser and motivational speaker 30 years after she won.

Meissner won't be skating in the Stars on Ice stop March 22 in Baltimore because she'll be preparing to defend her world title in Tokyo. However, she will perform when the Champions on Ice tour comes to Washington on April 14.

"Kimmie came on the scene pretty fast, and it took some time for people to get to know her. She opened a lot of people's eyes," Saegusa said. "Kimmie's here for the long haul."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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