Norwegian Olympic skiing star Aksel Lund Svindal, triple medal winner at the Olympics in Vancouver last winter, is clearly profiting from his success on the slopes. Now he’ll be sporting sunglasses made by Italian luxury goods producer Prada, the latest in a series of high-profile Norwegians to sign lucrative sponsorship deals.
Svindal won Olympic gold in the super G race, silver in the downhill and bronze in the giant slalom. That topped a career which took off in 2003, when he became Norwegian champion in two events and went on to several spots on the World Cup winners’ platform as well.
“From now on you’ll see me in Prada sunglasses,” Svindal wrote on his website this week. The publicity photos taken by Brigitte Lacombe will try to tempt well-off customers to buy the same make that Svindal wears. According to newspaper Aftenposten the deal is worth around NOK 6 million (USD 1 million) a year, but Svindal won’t comment on the sum involved.
Nor will his father, an accountant by trade who assists his son in contract negotiations and keeps track of his deals. “I’d rather talk about the sport and I’m not so concerned about the money,” claimed Bjørn Svindal, but he told Aftenposten that “the deals with equipment manufacturers are bigger.”
Svindal has plenty of those, too, ranging from ski-maker Head to car maker Audi and ski wax producer Swix. The next big deal seems likely to be with the energy drink producer Red Bull. The pressure is on to complete deals before the World Cup season starts in Sölden in Austrian Tyrol at the end of October.
Jacob Lund, who manages sponsoring deals for one of Norway’s major banks, DnB NOR, says he is not surprised by Svindal’s popularity with sponsors. Svindal and cross country Olympic champion Petter Northug dominate the winter sport’s scene, while javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen gets the most attention among summer athletes.
“Nevertheless, the best deal has been made by Magnus Carlsen,” Lund told Aftenposten, referring to the leading chess champion’s agreement with clothing giant G-star. Carlsen also has backing from Oslo brokerage firm Arctic Securities and the Simonsen law firm.
“These four grab around 70 per cent of the international deals made by Norwegian sportsmen,” adds Lund.
Another sponsorship guru focuses on Svindal’s personality. “He combines humility and self-confidence,” says Lars Martin Kaupang with the analysis firm Sponsor Insight. “Prada’s deal with Aksel Lund Svindal says a lot about his impact not only in Europe, but also in North America and parts of Asia.”
Svindal’s language skills also help to make him popular with journalists. He answers questions readily in both English and German at press conferences, and Bjørn Svindal thinks this is important to sponsors.
“They are selective, and Aksel’s ear for languages and openness towards the media and audiences have been an important factor with the sponsors,” said Bjørn Svindal.