New York - Choosing Olympic athletes for endorsement deals depends on more than just aligning with the right product category; the athlete’s fan base and the brands they use are equally critical to a successful partnership between brands and athletes, according to global information company, The NPD Group.

Athletes who appear similar at first glance can attract fans that use distinctly different brands. Swimmers Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky both have bona fide Olympic pedigrees, having won multiple gold medals in 2012 and 2016, respectively, but the similarities stop there.  According to NPD’s BrandLink1, Missy’s fans drink more juices than the average consumer, whereas Katie’s fans favor soft drinks.  Minute Maid is one of Missy Franklin’s key sponsors and her fans’ heavier than average consumption makes this a well-matched, authentic endorsement.

“Katie Ledecky’s decision to swim for Stanford takes her out of endorsement consideration during her NCAA years. However, endorsing either Coke or Pepsi would be a natural fit once she turns pro, assuming that her fan base continues to reflect these brand preferences,” said Barbara Zack, vice president at The NPD Group. “And, importantly, the optimal sponsorship deal would be with one of the lighter, healthier sub-brands which Katie’s fans prefer.”

In addition to beverages, notable differences exist in the brands of clothing, shoes and personal care that Missy and Katie fans use.  Both athletes would be strong candidates for endorsing any of these categories, but the Americana brands that attract Missy fans are not the same ones as the more fashion-forward brands that resonate with Katie fans.

“Brands looking to capture the prestige and excitement of the Olympics naturally look for athlete endorsers. To optimize their investment, savvy advertisers ensure that their brand is an authentic fit with the athlete, but also resonates with the fan base who they are seeking to attract.” said Zack.