US-born Eileen Gu said she decided to compete for China to honor her mother, who was born there. It also turned out to be a great financial choice.
After winning a gold medal in the women’s big air freeski competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Tuesday, Gu can count on sponsorship deals and endorsements from both countries, according to US marketing experts.
“Gu is in an interesting position where she can support both American and Chinese brands because she is passionate about both,” says Cheyenne Cantor, marketing manager at MediaLink, a UTA company, in Los Angeles. “Gu has the opportunity to highlight brands in China that may not have the popularity of other American brands and vice versa.”
In China, skiing is not the popular sport it is in the West, and Gu is seen as a personality who can spread the word while developing a loyal fanbase who will buy the products she approves, Cantor said.
Gu, 18, a resident of San Francisco, is a model, represented by IMG, who spent her summers in China. She is being criticized for skiing with the Chinese team rather than the US team, but marketing pundits say her popularity gains in China will more than offset any backlash she faces in the US .
Gu already has numerous affiliations with luxury brands on both sides of the Pacific. Last year, Tiffany & Co. named her one of three new global brand ambassadors, alongside actresses Anya Taylor-Joy and Tracee Ellis Ross. Gu also works with watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen, Victoria’s Secret, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Gucci.
In China, its endorsements include Luckin Coffee, Bank of China, Cadillac China and China Mobile. Campaign Asia estimates that it has dozens of brands working with it. Her face graced the covers of She and vogue china. During this month’s Games, another sponsor Red Bull released footage of Gu in Beijing, including a new digital series titled Eileen every day on his rise to stardom. This week, the publication of the luxury brand based in China Daily Jing described Gu as “China’s hottest commodity”.
On LinkedIn, Eileen Gu’s mother, Yan Gu, calls herself a “China investment expert” at Fusion Investment in San Francisco.
Gu could not immediately be reached for comment, but in an interview with a Forbes A contributor last year, she said her “most important message is just to encourage young girls in sports, extreme sports in particular, to break down boundaries and not feel too intimidated by being the only one. daughter or being the youngest”.
“I want to use my voice to tell people, ‘If I can do it, then you can too,'” she said.
This message transcends national boundaries, says Jamie Gutfreund, global marketing director at influencer agency Whalar, who has spent the past decade marketing to young people.
“Increasingly, brands are looking for ways to position their message as global and not limited by linguistic or geographic boundaries,” says Gutfreund, who previously served as chief marketing officer for Hasbro, MGA Entertainment and the agency. of Wunderman Thompson advertising. “Athletes like Eileen serve as cultural diplomats who can help spread a message more widely.”
Brands looking to diversify their reps around the world will flock to Gu, who has “all the qualities” they want, says Dan Tunna, who has done influencer marketing around the Olympics.
“She clearly has the potential to transcend her sport,” Tunna said. “Her dual citizenship status makes her the ideal ambassador for Chinese brands operating globally and Western brands looking to expand in China.”
Ricardo Fort, who handled Olympic sponsorships for Coca-Cola and Visa at previous Games, said he would be surprised if Gu’s decision to ski for the Chinese team at the Olympics was commercial rather than just sentimental. However, the decision was financially smart and can only broaden its appeal in the most populous country in the world.
“If I had to choose between Chinese sponsors and American sponsors, the pool of money for sponsors in China is more interesting for any athlete,” said Fort, who is the founder of Sport by Fort Consulting. “I don’t know if it was a motivation, but I think it will exclusively benefit Chinese brands and not much more Western brands.”