Wednesday, February 27, 2013

McKayla Maroney Hangs Ten at Penn Station

My birthday in 2012 included an introduction to a young woman who impressed me.

At the U.S.O.C. Media Summit for London, reporters and bloggers in Dallas last May 14 met the pre-Games, pre-meme, pre-medal-winning McKayla Maroney.

Maroney impressed not only for her athletic accomplishments, but also for her poise as a media-ready Olympian. Here was a young woman with her sights on Olympic gold and savvy eye on post-Games endorsement opportunities. Interviewing her briefly as her media Q&A wrapped, I walked away thinking, "Here's an athlete who not only studied, say, Mary Lou Retton's field of play prowess but also how the perfect 10 gymnast managed the glory beyond the Wheaties box."

Watching reruns of Retton interviews at LA84 XXVth Gala affirmed this.

So instead of blogging about Maroney last summer, I kept these observations on the back burner waiting to see how she'd fulfill her potential.

It was thrilling to see Maroney and the team in person as they captured team gold in London, and exciting to see the "not impressed" phenomenon across social media and the Oval Office.

That was just the preamble. The Maroney marketing machine is launching officially this week.

As reported by the New York Times, Maroney landed a major (and likely lucrative) endorsement deal tied to several soda brand names and a new 10 calorie line that builds on the Dr. Pepper 10 calorie beverage. Maroney will greet Penn Station visitors and fans on Thursday in a temporary "Ten Station" arrangement to encourage sampling and social media photo sharing of consumers who are "impressed" with new low-cal flavors of 7Up, RC Cola, A&W Root Beer and other flavors with "TEN" branding.

I'm impressed. It will be even more impressive if Maroney arrives at Penn Station in a gold singlet, jogging like Bo Derek on a beach. That would be a "Ten" move. Though not what Dr. Pepper inTENds.

Speaking of Bo Derek, why isn't she on board for the 10 calorie drink campaign?

Though much credit is due for the successful negotiation of this post-London Maroney endorsement, folks in the five-ringed scene have got to wonder as I do why the gymnast went with a non-Olympic beverage brand for her debut deal. Everyone knows Coca-Cola sponsors the Olympic Movement (all the way back to 1928, the same year women's gymnastics entered the Olympic program in Amsterdam).

Is McKayla consciously signaling to big red, make 7Up Yours?

The press release announcing the deal and Thursday's festivities gives no decisive clues.

This week one of Maroney's "Fierce Five" teammates, Aly Raisman, secured a spot on the next "Dancing With The Stars" season, following Shawn Johnson's footsteps. It will be impressive to learn Maroney's next move on the endorsement front.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver, the White House and Reuters/Brian Snyder. Photo illustration of "10" movie poster via IMDB, Reuters/Brian Snyder and this blog



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