NEWS - AUGUST 2016
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The Experts Network (TXN) consisting of Cris Collinsworth, Boomer Esiason, Howie Long and Phil Simms recently filmed a 2016 NFL season preview special for Sports Illustrated. The 2016 NFL season preview special will feature insight and analysis from these four NFL legends who represent some of the most plugged-in voices in football -- including stories from their own careers, predictions, rankings, breakout stars, and more for the 2016 season. This event will air the first week of the NFL season on SI.com.
Rio 2016: Will N.J. gymnast Laurie Hernandez land endorsements? One expert says ...
By Steve Politi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com August 15, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO — Laurie Hernandez will compete for the final time in the 2016 Olympics on Monday, with a very good chance at picking up a second medal in the balance beam individual competition.
Hernandez, the 16-year-old Old Bridge native, will try to capitalize on her newfound fame. She announced that she would turn professional after the Olympics, turning down a scholarship at Florida, to pursue her gymnastics career full time. That means national and international competitions, plus a shot at something college athletes cannot do: Endorsements.
is Hernandez, whose bright smile and sassy routines have won over fans, a marketable athlete? We asked Steve Rosner, the founder of 16W Marketing in Rutherford, for his take:
Q. What makes Laurie marketable?
A. Obviously as a gold medal winner, she will have some corporate opportunities, but because of her age, it's still yet to be seen to what extent. From an endorsement standpoint, I personally thought it was a risk for her to turn pro due to her age before the Games before she had not won any medals at that point. Also, because of her age, there will be limitations on categories and products that other members of the gymnastic team may have the chance to endorse.
A. Is there a ceiling for an Olympian?
Absolutely. I think that Olympic athletes are seen different because they are representing their country while they are performing their athletic prowess. I have been lucky enough to represent several Olympians over the years. Two specific cases come to mind when one moment has allowed those individuals to have a corporate identity for decades. One example is Dan Jansen, who competed in prior Olympics and had a heartfelt story behind him with the loss of his sister just days leading up to him winning the gold medal. Jansen has been able to stay in the corporate spotlight since 1994. Another example would be Kerri Strug, based on her performance in 1996 and her story of coming through in the clutch and overcoming injury. Both her and Jansen have led both of them to be favorites of corporate America and Olympic sponsors. I believe it is more than just winning a gold - you need to have a story that inspires people.
Q. What kind of endorsements do you foresee for Laurie?
A. Due to her age, it would be endorsements that hit the 18-24 demographic. I would say more of the deals will be on a national level. Prior Olympians have always had national tours following the Olympic games as a way to make money. Public speaking could be limited because she is only 16 years old. She still can't endorse a car, because she can't drive. Life insurance category will not fit her at this time either. Also, advertisers will now have more choices due to the success of her teammates Simone Bilas and Aly Raisman.
As Olympic gymnast and “Final Five” superstar Laurie Hernandez stepped up to the balance beam Tuesday, the TV cameras caught her mouthing, “I got this.” It was a poignant moment of focus and determination that spread like wildfire across every form of social media, only to be topped the next day by a GIF of Hernandez winking at the judges before her floor routine. No wonder the Jersey girl, and youngest member of the women’s gymnastics team, has been nicknamed the Human Emoji.
Brant Lutska, chairman of the New Jersey chapter of USA Gymnastics, says it’s all just Laurie being Laurie. “She is 100 percent herself,” says Lutska, who is also a friend of the Hernandez family. “What you are seeing is what you really get,” he said. “That is the Laurie Hernandez I have known since she was 10 years old.”
Hailing from Old Bridge, the petite powerhouse is the first American-born Latina to make the US Olympic gymnastics team in 30 years. Known for her sassy floor routines and charisma, Hernandez comes from a tight-knit Puerto Rican family and starts every event by looking at her parents in the audience and mouthing her “I got this” mantra. And despite the controversy that ensued after she was passed over to compete in the individual all-around competition in favor of teammates Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, Hernandez has still managed to become the darling of the final five who won the gold for the team all-around.
“I think Laurie handled it really well,” says Lutska. “And I don’t think there are many 16-year-olds who have such a great attitude. Watching her on television [during Thursday’s all-around competition] celebrating her teammates’ success was incredible to me. That’s a sign of a champion. A lot of the credit goes to her coach and her parents for raising her so well. They have instilled such wonderful values in this girl.”
The home-schooled daughter of Wanda and Anthony Hernandez has been training with coach Maggie Haney since age 5. Lutska, who also co-owns a leotard company called Plum Practicewear, says his business partner discovered the rising star at a gymnastics meet six years ago. He was impressed with her ebullience and wanted her to model for the company. Lutska recounted Hernandez’s unwavering determination shining through at their first photo shoot.
“On the way to the shoot, someone rear-ended Laurie and her mother in their car,” Lutska recalled. “Her mom said, ‘Maybe we should go to the emergency room just to be safe.’ And Laurie said, ‘Mom, I have to be at this photo shoot. They are counting on me to be there. We can do it later.’ When she got to the shoot, we were immediately telling her she needed to go to the emergency room. Even when she was 10, it showed me that she was someone who had dedication and follow-through as a team player.”
In mid-July of this year, Hernandez — who had verbally committed to attend the University of Florida — and Haney declined to say whether she would still go to college or turn professional.
“Me and my coach haven’t really talked about that yet,” Hernandez said at the time.
But days before heading to Rio, she announced that she’d do the latter, opening up the possibility of lucrative product endorsements.
Steve Rosner of 16W Marketing, who has represented Olympic gold medalists like speed skater Dan Jansen and gymnast Kerri Strug, says Hernandez has a bright future — especially with consumer beauty brands. “Laurie’s a winner,” he says. “Being so young and not having the spotlight on her in the past, she comes across as real. That has struck a chord with a lot of people.”
He adds that Hernandez has even more room to excel than Strug did in her heyday. “With social media these days, opportunities are a little different than they were 20 years ago. Also she has the Latino and Hispanic market that can be tapped into.”
But Rosner also points out that Hernandez still has to do well in her balance-beam performance on Monday. And unlike Strug — who helped her team clinch the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics despite suffering torn ankle ligaments — Hernandez hasn’t yet had a significant heroic moment.
Lutska has his own plans for the pride and joy of Jersey.
“I think she’ll have a lot of offers. I’m hoping she goes on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ ” he says, clarifying that she has not been offered a spot on the show.
But all that will have to wait a minute. As her brother Marcus Hernandez said in a sweet Instagram message, the family has more low-key plans.
“As soon as you land” back at home, he wrote, “we’re going straight to Wawa.”