Turning medals into money process is challenging for Spillane, Demong | SteamboatToday.com

Turning medals into money process is challenging for Spillane, Demong

Mike Lawrence

— Looking at Olympic-athletes-turned-international-celebrities such as Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White, it's easy to think winning a medal on the world's biggest stage can translate into a lifetime wage.

But that's not always the case. And it hasn't been, at least so far, for Nordic combined stars Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong, who along with Todd Lodwick and Brett Camerota made history in Vancouver, British Columbia, this winter. The flying foursome won a combined seven medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics, including America's first in the sport. Spillane brought three hunks of silver back home to Steamboat Springs. Demong struck gold in the large hill individual event. But the medals have not yet turned into money.

"I have not made one dollar since the Olympics, aside from stuff I had set up prior to the Olympics," Spillane said last week. "Literally. No joke. Not a dollar."

"For me, so far, it's been more geared toward non-paying opportunities," Demong said about his post-Olympic calendar.

But neither man is complaining. Not in the slightest. Lodwick and Camerota could not be reached last week, but Spillane and Demong spoke glowingly about their wealth of opportunities in recent weeks. They've visited troops in the Middle East, met President Barack Obama at the White House, shared their experiences with young students at numerous schools and more.

"We've been really busy, just not getting paid to do any of it," Spillane said.

Recommended Stories For You

Creating profitable business ventures from Olympic medals is neither easy nor guaranteed. Spillane and Demong have agents in Park City, Utah, and are exploring opportunities such as speaking appearances and spokesman gigs. But Spillane's agent, former ski jumper and coach Corby Fisher, of Caliber Sports Enterprises, said for athletes in the relatively low-profile sport of Nordic combined, successful marketing is an uphill race.

"We're having to be very, very creative," Fisher said. "When Johnny won those medals, it was personally one of the happiest days of my life for him, but the door wasn't being beaten down."

They have plenty of ideas in the works. In addition to motivational speaking appearances, Fisher said Spillane is helping design signature cross-country ski courses in New England, the Midwest and the Steamboat Springs area. Fisher declined to give specifics about the courses, which are works in progress. Fisher also is working with outdoor companies to promote Spillane as a brand spokesman and pursuing opportunities for Spillane to promote the state of Colorado, appear on outdoor television shows and even podcasts or Web appearances.

Spillane also has signed on for events with Steamboat-based Dig This, which allows clients to operate heavy construction equipment in a scenic setting. Spillane and other Steamboat Olympians will join Dig This customers in dirt-moving fun with some proceeds benefiting the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

"We've arranged for things that in the future could potentially pay off," Spillane said.

In the spring and summer, he's continuing his work as a guide for Steamboat Flyfisher.

Demong also is focusing his attention on the outdoors but from more of a conservationist ethic.

"One of the things I'm interested in is finding some environmental and green partners," said Demong, who is in the middle of remodeling his home with reused materials.

Demong spoke at the Natio­nal Mall in Washington, D.C., on Earth Day about "the thrill of skiing and wanting to preserve that opportunity" through environmental conservation efforts.

Demong said it's crucial to keep principles in mind when choosing opportunities.

"It's finding the things that fit your schedule, that you want to support and that support you," Demong said. "(It's about doing) the right amount of things and for the right reasons."

Billy Kidd, who parlayed his silver medal in the 1964 Winter Olympics into numerous endorsements and 40 years as director of skiing at Steamboat Ski Area, said his advice to the Nordic combined foursome would be to "do some things that make you feel good."

"I've always been very strict about products I endorse," Kidd said. "I want to endorse products I believe in and use myself."

Throughout the years, he said, those products have included American Airlines, Jeep, Rolex, Bud Light and American Express. Kidd also has done commentary for NBC and CBS, written three books, hosted ski camps, put his name on all sorts of ski gear and traveled the world to promote American skiing.

He was optimistic about the chances of financial success for the history-making Nordic combined crew.

"Those are the opportunities that Todd and Johnny and Billy and Brett are going to have," Kidd said. "Outside the ski industry is where they are going to make a lot of money."

For more

■ To set up an event with three-time Olympic silver medalist Johnny Spillane, call Corby Fisher, of Caliber Sports Enterprises, at 435-640-3131, or visit http://www.calibersportsenterprises.com. To go on a guided fishing trip with Johnny, call Steamboat Flyfisher at 970-879-6552 or visit http://www.steamboatflyfisher.com.

■ For events with Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong, call Michael Spencer or Jennifer Holden at EGO Sports Management at 435-649-6996, or visit http://www.egosports.net.

Go back to article