Q&A: Michael Phelps Turns His Gold Into Green

Swimmer Michael Phelps had barely dried off from his historic showing at the Summer Games in Beijing when he dove into the world that comes with winning a record eight gold medals. His whirlwind tour included a parade at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago and as a presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles (which aired Sept. 7). This week he is in New York to host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on Sept. 13.

Analysts put Phelps’ pre-Olympic endorsements at about $5 million. His  potential has now doubled and he could earn $100 million in his lifetime, per his agent, Peter Carlisle, at Octagon, New York. Deals include Visa, Hilton Hotels, AT&T, Omega, Kellogg, Power Bar and Speedo, which gave him a $1 million bonus for winning eight golds. Phelps used the money to launch The Michael Phelps Foundation, which will promote water safety and encourage youth swimming. Phelps and Carlisle spoke with Brandweek senior reporter Mike Beirne.

Brandweek: Do you have a criteria for brands with which you will affiliate?
Michael Phelps: Every sponsor I’ve had has been something that fit my lifestyle, fit my personality. The big thing is, is it something I’m comfortable with, something I use and something I like to use? So I think if it meets all that, then it fits my personality.
Peter Carlisle: We want to create platforms that hopefully will make Michael’s brand global. Things we look for are geographic reach and the depth of the program that go along with Michael’s goal of developing the sport of swimming.

BW: What product categories will you not endorse?
PC: Tobacco products. [And] maybe not [alcoholic beverages]. E-mails come in on a daily basis and a portion of those are opportunities that are not appropriate for Michael. Again it goes back to what Michael said initially. He’s got to use the product [and] like the product. Given how well he’s done, he’s in a position where he can pick and choose and isn’t compelled to make things fit into his program. There are the obvious categories and the more obscure ones that wouldn’t fit into his program.

BW: You made a point about lifestyle and nutrition, do you rule out junk food? Will you only consider food brands that fit in with your lifestyle of nutrition and energy?
MP: I work out so many hours in a day [that] I’m constantly losing weight (he weighs about 200 pounds) and constantly burning calories. So I need to eat as much as I can. So I do eat fast food but at the same time I eat salads and fruits and vegetables. I eat everything I need to.

BW: So donuts have a chance?
MP: I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of guy. I also like Cadbury’s. I eat french fries, [Nestl