“‘The big mystery is how someone like Kim isn’t part of the Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and the Olympics sponsor push,’ (Rhode’s agent Patrick) Quinn said by phone from Chicago. ‘It would be nice to have an Olympic sponsor recognize the magnitude of her accomplishment.”’ Really? You don’t need to be Columbo to unravel why the Cokes and P&G’s of the world haven’t snapped up an athlete/mother/multiple medalist like Kim Rhode. Unlike a Katie Ledecky or a Simone Biles, Rhode’s won her six medals using a gun.
So while companies like Winchester, Beretta and Otis Technology support Rhode, she doesn’t have a single sponsor from outside the firearm industry.
The same is true for USA Shooting, even though the sport has since 2000 been the fifth-highest medal producer for the US team at Summer Olympics. The very first gold medal for any sport awarded in Rio went to Ginny Thrasher, 19, in her Olympics debut.
To be fair, the Olympic shooting sports attract a tiny fraction of the public’s attention and TV audience that high profile events like swimming and gymnastics do. NBC hardly mentions skeet or trap results in their coverage, let alone broadcasts a match on some cable outlet at midnight. So for a chief marketing officer allocating an annual budget, athletes in the glamour sports, while commanding significantly more sponsorship dollars, have far more caché and name recognition with the public.
But let’s not kid ourselves. We all know the real reason Rhode’s photo can only be seen on Winchester boxes, but not Wheaties. It’s that Beretta over her shoulder.
“A lot of times they say, well, we really like you, you’re great and your credentials speak for themselves, but we’re not sure how we can really fit you in,” (Rhode’s teammate Vincent) Hancock said. “It seems like they want to, but don’t want to get caught up in the media backlash that may arise if something were to come about with, say, one of the shootings.”
Translation: No CMO wants their PR people dealing with the inevitable media emails and phone calls when Shannon Watts and Ladd Everitt try to shame companies into dropping their sponsorship for a skeet shooter when another jihadi wanna-be pulls off the next San Bernardino or Orlando.
So don’t look for American success stories like Rhode to break out of the gun ghetto and into the mainstream any time soon. The first woman to win medals in six Olympic games will have to continue to get by on the support she gets from USA Shooting and corporate patrons within the firearms industry. It’s something she’s certainly excelled at.