Child prodigy to $33m brand; Bolt completes a full circle

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt returns to the National Stadium, Kingston,for his last run in his Jamaica. What a coincident. The curtain on the home run of world’s fastest man comes at the same venue where the sprint legend has taken flight to fantasy when he became the youngest ever junior world champion 15 years ago.

The 15 year journey through tracks across the world has added many a golden leafs to the glorious history of sprint running. Created a commercial growth graph steeper than many a highly successful rapidly growing industry. In these 15 years name Bold became a synonym with all sprint world records – 100m, 200m, 4x100m. For market it is a brand worth $ 33 million (Rs 215 crore) per annum. A career worth $60 million (Rs 390 crore).

German brand Puma had realized this potential early, and the brand-ambassador commitment runs through 2025.

The Kurt Badenhausen’s report for Forbes best describes Bolt the Brand. As the winner of the annual Samsung Diamond League Bolt receives around $39,520 (Rs 25,00,000 approx) which is a career-altering amount for most athletes, but just 1.24 per cent of Bolt’s average yearly takings; his earning power within his sport is unprecedented.

The hottest ticket at the London Olympics was, without a shadow of a doubt, the men’s 100 metre final, for which organisers – who received more than a million entrances into the ticket ballot for the event – were able to charge up to £874 per seat. That’s Bolt’s “star power”.

Usain Bolt single-handedly sells out stadiums. His appearance at the 2010 Penn Relays in Philadelphia saw the single highest attendance in the event’s 118-year history, of over 50,000 spectators. Rumour has it that Mike Barber, a fellow competitor, heard the roar accompanying Bolt’s arrival on-track, and assumed the President had arrived.

Before the Beijing Olympics, Usain Bolt’s only sponsor was his kit supplier, Puma, which has supported the star since his junior days, and Digicel, a Jamaican mobile phone company.

In terms of sponsorship, Bolt has no competition in track and field. He can only be compared with global icons like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The list of the brand supporting him is impressive.

Usain Bolt

For the man – credited with helping track transform itself from a dying sport to the one with a singular, smiling, worldwide star – saying goodbye and coming to terms with his own sporting mortality is going to be “emotional”. Hanging the boots one last time will be a glorious ritual. Jamaican Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange’s belief that Bolt ranks alongside Bob Marley as the biggest star to ever come out of the country, is a testimony to the legend’s status. Immortality he has achieved.