$42 million truth emerges in Eileen Gu furore at Winter Olympics
Eileen Gu has reportedly made a whopping $42 million in endorsements since the start of last year in a telling revelation that vindicates her controversial move to China.
The American-born Gu angered some in the US team when she switched allegiances to compete for China before the Beijing Games.
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After winning gold in the Big Air event last week, she collected a silver medal on Tuesday in the slopestyle.
Gu uncharacteristically went down in her second run, but managed to put together a solid 86.23-point third run to climb up to second and secure her second medal from two events, with the halfpipe still to come.
The 18-year-old, whose mother was born in China and whose father is American, made the switch in 2019 to represent China at its home Olympics.
"My biggest goal is to inspire young girls in China and worldwide to have interactions with the sport, to be able to try skiing," Gu said.
"It's such a niche sport, people haven't heard of it.
"So to have a young girl sitting at home watching TV, and the first time they hear about free sking, they hear about it from a young teenage girl, a young bi-racial teenage girl who can kind of reflect themselves on the TV.
"And they'll be like, 'Hey she looks just like me, she's just like me. If she can do it I can too.' And so I think that is so important."
Eileen Gu laughing all the way to the bank
Gu is also laughing all the way to the bank, with her decision to compete for China resulting in massive endorsement and sponsorship deals.
She is arguably the face of the Beijing Games, appearing on TV ads and billboards all around the country.
Sales of her red Anta ski suit have reportedly surged 20-fold on Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com, while local news outlet Tianxiashangwang reports that Gu has earned more than 200 million yuan ($A42 million) since the start of 2021.
Luckin Coffee sold out of Gu-endorsed drinks, with a spike in cup-holders bearing her image, and the Chinese chain immediately said it would launch more Gu-linked products throughout the year.
“She is the golden star for the country with the fastest-growing economy,” American expert Mike Hanley said recently.
“She can be the Tony Hawk of winter sports in China.”
Gu’s sponsors in America include Red Bull, Cadillac, Beats by Dre headphones and Victoria’s Secret, however those endorsement deals are nothing compared to what she has garnered in China.
She reportedly has over 20 endorsement deals in her adopted country, including Bank of China, China Mobile and milk company Mengniu.
According to campaignasia.com, Gu earns about $2.5 million from every deal.
“She’s going to be as big as Yao Ming was,” said publicist Jeff Ruffolo. “These Olympics are going to be her NBA.”
Michael Payne, former marketing chief of the International Olympic Committee, cited China's aim to get 300 million people involved in winter sports when he described the opportunity for Gu as unprecedented.
"If you look at the most successful athletes like Michael Phelps, I think we were talking about earning up to $100 million," he told Reuters.
"There's no question that if she continues to bring in the golds, she will be in the same league."
With another gold medal still in the offing, her closely scrutinised decision to compete for China appears to be paying off - commercially at least.
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