Simone Biles loves pizza. Who doesn't?
But there's one key difference between Biles and the rest of us: she's a bonafide Olympic hero, possibly the best gymnast ever and the belle of the ball for companies hoping to lock up athlete endorsements. So that means Biles' pre-existing love for pepperoni pizza, especially in the immediate aftermath of her record-setting win, could soon prove very profitable.
"Simone’s affinity toward pepperoni pizza offers a timely opportunity to become a spokesperson for, or invest in, a brand in which she is a loyal consumer," Scott Bukstein, associate program director and professor of sport business management at the University of Central Florida, told International Business Times in an email. "I anticipate that numerous brands are already developing proposal pitches to align with Simone."
In case you missed it: 19-year-old Biles — who won four gold medals (and the hearts of millions) at Rio 2016 — has often expressed her affinity for a good slice, even saying she eats it after every gymnastics meet.
“It doesn’t even matter if I don’t win a self-gold, after every meet I have pizza. Pepperoni pizza,” she told ABC News. It's a fixture on her social media feeds, the gymnast once tweeting, "there's no 'we' in pizza."
A pizza partnership, then, seems like an exceedingly obvious fit. Slate even put out hypothetical odds for which chain would win the Biles sweepstakes of sorts (Sbarro was last at 500/1, Papa John's first at even money). Digiorno, the make-it-at-home pizza brand, perhaps betraying a bit of thirst, even tweeted at Biles.
But brands love working with athletes who already love their product. For one: there's a built-in story to sell. It's a great selling point and in the marketing parlance it's easier to "activate" the deal.
"Clients are very, very attracted to the idea that athletes use the product without being paid for it," Jonathan Jensen, a consultant and sports marketing professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told IBT. Jensen spent a decade brokering athlete endorsement deals for brands and said "there's no more tried and true strategy for agents" than to pitch brands on the idea that the athlete already uses the product. It's often a closer of sorts, but can also provide the initial spark for deals.
Think the NFL's Marshawn Lynch's long-held affection for Skittles turning into the now-retired running back peddling candy. The Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw apparently ate Subway sandwiches before games for years before the company brought him on.
There are some challenges for Biles joining up with a pizza brand. As an elite gymnast, she's perhaps one of the most fit people on the planet, and pizza isn't exactly for calorie-counters. The most famous athlete to pitch pizzas, now-retired NFL Peyton Manning, was a great quarterback, but doesn't exactly have an Adonis-esque build.
"The question is when you have an incongruent pairing like Marshawn Lynch with skittles or an elite gymnast with pizza, how do you make that work?" Jensen said. The answer often lies in a bit of creativity. Manning's pizza chain of choice, Papa John's, has brought on Houston Texan J.J. Watt — who's built like an F-350 — and they've used him differently. And Elite athletes have long endorsed fatty foods they probably eat once a year. Challenges can be overcome: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees shilled for a motorcycle he was contractually forbidden to ride.
Due to the infamously restrictive Olympic advertising rules, there's a blackout on non-official Olympic sponsors using the games for promotional material until Aug. 24. Biles might be ready to lock-up brands as soon as possible, since the Olympic glow can often be short-lived. She's already appeared in commercials for major products like Hershey's chocolate and Tide detergent.
Biles' Rio performance, which largely lived up to outsized expectations for the multi-time world champion, only adds to her value as an endorser.
"She's only 19 years old," Jensen said. "There are a lot of possibilities in the future for her."