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Cody Simpson a sponsorship dream that could change swimming forever

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He’s still two years away from realizing his Olympic dream in Paris, but Cody Simpson is already working on an approval blitz that could make him the richest swimmer in the history of the sport.

A perfect blend of good looks, style, athleticism and with a big dose of celebrity thanks to his previous career as an international pop star, Simpson, 26, is a branding dream according to industry experts.

The photogenic Gold Coaster already has just over 4.2 million Instagram followers – a million more than American supervising Michael Phelps who holds the crown as the world’s most successful Olympian.

His number is also smaller than that of Australia’s most famous polar legend Ian Thorpe, who has just over 70,000 followers on Instagram.

Pop star-tuned swimmer Cody Simpson leaves practice on the Gold Coast on Friday morning

Simpson is already in a clearance blitz that could make him the richest swimmer in the history of the sport

Simpson is already in a clearance blitz that could make him the richest swimmer in the history of the sport

Simpson with swimmer and rumors of new love interest Emma McKeon on the Gold Coast

Simpson with swimmer and rumors of new love interest Emma McKeon on the Gold Coast

Just a year after his official tilt to Olympic gold, Simpson has already assembled an enviable list of endorsements through management powerhouse IMG, with lucrative deals already in the works with Hugo Boss, Myer, Versace and G Star denim.

That list is likely to only grow leading up to Paris 2024 as companies look to bond with what is developing as one of the most unique celebrity stories in sports history.

Even without winning gold in the 100m race in Paris – which Simpson has said is the ‘end game’ of his career switch – the multi-talented Aussie would be breaking new ground in terms of what a swimmer can bring in financially.

Phelps, who retired in 2016 after five competitions and 28 medals, is the richest swimmer in the world with an estimated fortune of AUD$75 million, made up of large, long-term deals with companies such as Louis Vuitton, Omega, Colgate and Under Armour.

Simpson, who has so far formed only one representative team after his appearance at the Nationals last month, has already secured several lucrative clothing deals, including German luxury fashion house Hugo Boss and Pharrell William’s denim label G Star Raw.

Simpson dated Miley Cyrus for about a year before going through a 'mutual divorce' in 2020

Simpson dated Miley Cyrus for about a year before going through a ‘mutual divorce’ in 2020

One of the world's largest luxury labels, Hugo Boss, has an agreement with Simpson

One of the world’s largest luxury labels, Hugo Boss, has an agreement with Simpson

After his relationship with Cyrus, Simpson dated model Marloes Stevens (pictured)

After his relationship with Cyrus, Simpson dated model Marloes Stevens (pictured)

More recently, he has signed a long-term multi-year deal with Myer Menswear and has signed several smaller deals with swimwear brand Engine and sports supplement company Vital Performance.

However, more deals are likely to follow in the wake of Simpson’s recent move to talent management giant IMG – a global stable that spearheads the careers of sports megastars Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and pop star Justin Timberlake. †

The swimmer-turned singer still has a major record deal with Atlantic Records, and Warner Music released his first album in six years this year.

Maintaining a hand in the music industry – as well as the worldwide recognition of his modeling career and brief relationship with global pop star Miley Cyrus – makes Simpson a rare commodity in the world of celebrity marketing; someone with multi-platform ‘cut through’.

Cody 'made up of a number of worlds, sports, fashion and music.. it's no wonder companies are screaming', says brand expert

Cody ‘made up of a number of worlds, sports, fashion and music.. it’s no wonder companies are screaming’, says brand expert

McKeon and Simpson during a training session ahead of the 2021 Australian National Olympic Swimming Trials in South Australia in 2021

McKeon and Simpson during a training session ahead of the 2021 Australian National Olympic Swimming Trials in South Australia in 2021

Even without winning gold in the 100m race in Paris - what Simpson says is the 'end game' of his career switch - the multi-talented Aussie would be breaking new ground in terms of what a swimmer can bring in financially.

Even without winning gold in the 100m race in Paris – what Simpson says is the ‘end game’ of his career switch – the multi-talented Aussie would be breaking new ground in terms of what a swimmer can bring in financially.

“It’s not just about swimming with Cody and in that sense he is unique,” said Simpson’s friend and mentor Grant Hackett – himself a former Olympic champion and big earner in the swimming world.

“He was a musician first, a celebrity first, and then a swimmer. I can’t think of anyone else who has ever gotten into a sport, from the background he has, and managed to do what he’s got.

“Commercially, he resonates on so many different levels and that makes him attractive to so many different types of sponsors.

“But don’t forget that he did the job in the end. He made the decision to make himself vulnerable to the world, to give it a chance, to get into a national team within two years.

“He did and I think he deserves everything he gets. I challenge anyone to be critical of the road they have traveled for themselves.’

In fact, according to an independent marketing expert who has worked with a number of global fashion brands, Simpson possesses a rare quality that is considered a sort of “holy grail” in the endorsement world.

“There’s a certain style of dedication and dedication that he puts into everything he does, which started with singing when he was younger.

“Then he just decides to become a swimmer and as we’ve seen, he gave it with all his dedication,” he said.

‘That really appeals to his personal character. And that is a quality that really appeals to brands.

“Besides, he spans a number of worlds, sports, fashion and music… it’s no wonder companies are screaming.”

Matt Biondi was one of the first 'pin-ups' of swimming and helped put the sport on the map in the 1980s

Matt Biondi was one of the first ‘pin-ups’ of swimming and helped put the sport on the map in the 1980s

There’s also the mind-boggling possibility that Simpson – already catnip to sponsors, fans and media – could actually achieve the unthinkable and win a media gold in just over two years in Paris.

It’s a prospect that could have an all-powerful effect on his sport, which has traditionally struggled for the attention and support of the major broadcasters.

Once broadcast on Australia’s major free-to-air networks – mainly Channel Nine during the golden age of the 2000 Olympics – swimming now struggles for the relevance of its broadcast in Australia with the most recent national championships broadcast on Amazon. Prime are streamed.

Years before Simpson even pulled a Speedo, a young American swimmer changed the face of the sport with the same enthusiasm when he appeared on the scene in a hail of flashbulbs at the 1984 Olympics.

With a handsome boy next door and a chiseled physique, Matt Biondi would become a household name in the US, winning 11 Olympic medals, holding world records in five events and competing in three Summer Olympics in 1984, 1988 and 1992.

“A rising tide lifts all boats.” Simpson could raise swimming profile, says American swimming legend Matt Biondi

He was also one of the first swimmers to establish a lucrative career as a sponsor and help raise the profile of the sport – something he says Simpson is now well positioned to do.

“I was at our community pool about a year ago and recognized Cody and he recognized me too,” Biondi told the Daily Mail Australia.

‘We chatted for a while, enjoyed our conversation, he seemed like a very down-to-earth guy.

“Obviously, every time a competitor breaks the marketing barriers of swimming, everyone benefits.

‘A rising tide lifts all boats. Exposure and brand awareness is key. The problem swimming has always had is that there aren’t enough set hours on TV for the public to know these athletes the way they know Cody or Michael Phelps.

“Low TV hours translates into few marketing dollars, plain and simple.”

The swimmer-turned singer still has a major record deal with Atlantic Records, and Warner Music released his first album in six years this year.

The swimmer-turned singer still has a major record deal with Atlantic Records, and Warner Music released his first album in six years this year.

Simpson’s influence could also eventually pave the way for other swimmers to land on the radar of big brands.

Currently, top Australian swimmers earn an average annual salary of just $26,000 – a figure well below minimum wage and generally seen as a turn-off for elite athletes seeking a career in the pool.

According to Hackett, the challenge now lies with Swimming Australia to leverage Simpson’s new-found popularity in a way that benefits the sport and its athletes.

“Let’s see if Swimming Australia can be a little more dynamic and take advantage of this new kind of interest in the sport that Cody is generating,” Hackett told the Daily Mail Australia.

“The sport has been very puristic and that’s fine in many ways, but at the same time we have to do new things to keep the interest high.

“I’m not sure if they have what it takes to do it. I don’t think the jury agrees.’

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