Runner sells ad-space on body

2012-01-09 10:24
Nick Symmonds (File)
New York - Olympian Nick Symmonds, a vocal critic of what he calls track and field’s needlessly restrictive logo and sponsorship regulations, is auctioning advertising space on his body to raise money - and awareness.

According to the website, Symmonds, currently the US national champion in the 800 metres, will wear the winning bidder’s Twitter handle on his left shoulder for the duration of the 2012 season, which starts next month and includes the Olympic Games in London.

The goal is to draw support from fans and corporations to help finance his quest for Olympic gold while advancing his crusade against rules barring athletes from having sponsorships in the Olympics or Olympic-sanctioned races. Symmonds, who competed in the 2008 Olympics, argues regulations by International Association of Athletics Federations and USA Track & Field create a virtual monopoly for the few companies allowed to display logos on uniforms.

Although Symmonds says his sponsors, Nike and Melaleuca, “have done an amazing job helping me get where I am today,” he believes he and other athletes should be able to broker their own endorsement deals.

To that end, Symmonds will wear a temporary tattoo bearing the winning bidder’s Twitter handle. The tattoo will be “very legible and easy for people to read,” he said. In the auction listing, Symmonds also promises to “tweet a message of support for the auction winner on the first of every month” from his Twitter account, @nsymm800.

Symmonds became something of a poster child for the issue in October when he created a Facebook group called “I’m tired of USATF and IAAF crippling our sport” to vent his frustration. The group currently has some 6 400 friends.

The auction, which started last Wednesday and runs through January 14, comes one month after the IAAF loosened its sponsorship rules. The new regulation, which took effect on January 1, allows allow two logos on jerseys - that of the manufacturer and another sponsor. Symmonds says the rule is “largely symbolic.”

“It does absolutely nothing to change things, because almost every contract with the manufacturers of the jerseys has an exclusivity contract,” he said. “If you’re wearing Brand X jersey, you can’t have Company Y’s logo on it.”

Rather than tinker with the rules, he says, the sport’s sanctioning bodies should step aside and let athletes and their agents negotiate directly with companies.


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