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Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Jones earned every marketing dollar

By Darren Rovell

The fact that Lolo Jones came in fourth in Tuesday's 100-meter hurdles final could certainly affect her future marketability.

But let's get this out of the way: Lolo Jones deserved every single dime of the marketing dollars she received before that race started.

The notion that her athletic achievements weren't worthy of the attention the media and corporate America had bestowed on her was first floated in a New York Times column earlier this week. She was an attention grabber, according to the article, which quoted an expert in "Olympic Studies" who said Jones reminded her of Anna Kournikova. Kournikova famously earned big endorsement dollars without winning a WTA singles title during her career.

Wednesday, as Jones wept on NBC's "Today Show," it was easy to see how much the article and the discussion it inspired got into her head. And since her emotions likely made it tough for her to properly defend herself, let me do it for her.

Lolo Jones
Hurdler Lolo Jones deserves credit to her creating her own relevancy.

Whether you think Jones should or shouldn't be a household name, the bottom line is she is.

If you think her name is cheapened by some strategy to be relevant, to constantly be in the news -- most prominently the open talk about her virginity -- then shouldn't she get some credit for the fact that it worked?

Credit for the fact that in this world of clutter, she got into the heads of marketers who, for whatever reason, wanted to attach their brands to her?

Credit to her creating her own relevancy. Is that cheap? Is that undeserving?

McDonald's, Asics and Red Bull, all of whom sponsored Jones, aren't in the business of throwing away their money.

They're in the business of getting your attention and selling food, shoes and drinks.

And admit it, man or woman, Jones made you look up at the TV or at a magazine ad. It's harder to tell if she convinced you to run or get a large fry.

While winning is often the most important component of marketing, it's not the only thing. And it's not the job of companies to pad the wallets of athletes with endorsement deals just because they managed to win on the field, court or track.

Jones' competitors, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, who finished ahead of her to take the silver and bronze respectively, also don't think the attention Jones has received has been fair.

To them I ask: What have you done to get your name in front of Olympic sponsors? When you didn't get deals, did you ask them why? Did you work on becoming more marketable?

I know Jones did. The last time I saw her in person she asked me for my advice on her Twitter handle, which at the time was @runlolorun. She was thinking of changing it to her name and wanted to know if I thought it was the right move. I said it was. She made the change. Over the next couple months, she became one of the most followed athletes on Twitter.

A couple months later, I told her I needed help filming a pilot for a TV show I was working on. I told her the show would never run. She didn't care. She wanted to get the reps in and use the opportunity for media training.

As others worked on improving their times, Jones worked on pitching herself as well. Maybe that cost her on Tuesday, maybe it didn't.

But to say she didn't deserve what she earned in endorsements because she didn't medal is just plain wrong.