Wednesday 21 February 2018

Revealed: Here's how much money the O'Donovan brothers can make by cashing in on their Olympic fame

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Has there ever been an Irish sporting story quite like the O'Donovan brothers?

Sure, Ireland has produced successful sportspeople across a wide range of disciplines, but rarely has an athlete (or athletes, in this case) seen their public profile go from 0-60 in such a short space of time.

Most of our sporting heroes were on the public radar long before they reached the pinnacle of their field - you probably have to go back to Michelle Smith in 1996 for someone who basically surged out of nowhere to occupy a pivotal place in the nation's consciousness.

Even Annalise Murphy, who took silver alongside the Cork siblings in Rio, was known to many for her tearful interview after coming up short in London four years ago.

Aside from the most ardent Olympics/rowing fans, few were familiar with Gary and Paul O'Donovan until about three weeks ago.


Their post-race interviews have already been cemented into television history, becoming absolute certainties to be played on the 2016 edition of Reeling in the Years.

The whole of Ireland want as much of the O'Donovan brothers as possible at the moment - but what will that mean for the duo going forward?

No doubt there is money there to be made, but how much they could earn in the near future is open to debate.

Rob Pearson, an Account Director for PSG Sponsorship, thinks that the Olympic medalists are in an ideal position - through skill, hard work, achievement and personality - to capitalise in a big way from the Rio games.

"When marketing managers are looking at their budgets for the next 18 months or so, these lads will be high up on their list for consideration," Pearson tells

"Brands will definitely be looking to tap into their personalities if they have that young, fun and self-deprecating tone of voice. The lads are a vehicle for them to tap into their target audience.

"They weren’t high in profile before the Olympics and that has been flipped on its head now. They are two guys with big personalities and they have the performances to back it up – that is really what brands are looking for."

One danger that the O'Donovan brothers face for the remainder of 2016 is ensuring they don't over expose themselves. The standard Late Late Show appearance takes place tonight, but Pearson thinks they should be careful in their public appearances thereafter.

There are four years to the next Olympics, but that isn't just four years of training in order for the brothers to turn the Rio silver into a Tokyo gold. Pearson thinks they should also treat the next Olympic cycle as a chance to build their personal brand so that if they do repeat their success at the next games, they will be in the ideal position to capitalise.

"They need to be quite protective as to who they do deals with," Pearson says.

"It is easy to make a quick buck and put themselves into photocalls and product deals but they need to take a much more long-term viewpoint with this and not devalue themselves with a lot of small deals. You don’t want to be seen as someone who will put your name on anything because that will devalue you very quickly. The next Olympics is in four years and they should look at this as a four year cycle and find brands to take the journey with them."

There is a pathway paved by some of Ireland's most successful athletes that, if followed, could see the Olympic medalists monetize their massive likeability.

"They are going to have offers coming at them but what they need to do is look quite strategically at their brand and make clever decisions, like who are the right brands for them to partner up with," Pearson says.

"If you look at some of the big athletes like Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell, they have been strategic partnering with 3-4 high profile brands. Katie Taylor has about six. They don’t spread themselves too thin and that is what the guys need to do, as well as look at what categories they could target for sponsorship, whether that is retail, nutrition, energy or finance."

Ultimately, Pearson estimates that the brothers can pull in six figures between them in endorsements/sponsorship deals over the next 12 months.

"I would say if they were to come up with four marquee brands and get themselves weaved into advertising campaigns as well as the usual ambassador deals they could be looking at €100,000 per year in sponsorship as a pair," he says.

"They are a much more viable proposition for a brand to take on together because they row together and they bounce off each other so well."

Their ability to dovetail so perfectly together on camera might well be their key selling point. In an age where most sportspeople partake in online videos in their role as brand ambassadors, the brothers' ability to make native content must-see would prove very valuable.

"In this day and age a lot of brands are looking to make their own content and publish it through their own channels," Pearson says.

"The potential that these guys have to create some really interesting and impactful content is as high as I’ve ever seen it."

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