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Eileen Gu’s choice for China is paying off…for now

By February 15, 2022Sports games

When Eileen Gu won Olympic gold in the Big Air, sales of her red Anta ski suit, featuring slip-reducing technology, increased 20 times on Chinese e-commerce platform Luckin Coffee sold all Gu-endorsed beverages, with a spike in Gu-branded cup holders, and the Chinese chain immediately said it would launch more Gu-related products throughout the year.

The San Francisco-born skier won a silver medal in Tuesday’s slopestyle final, earning more praise on Chinese social media for redeeming herself on a third jump after an earlier mistake. With another gold medal still in sight, his carefully considered decision to compete for China appears to be paying off, at least commercially.

Already the most popular athlete on the Chinese team, the model and new Stanford student is endorsed by two dozen brands, from French luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton to Chinese sportswear maker Anta. His global endorsements include Estee Lauder, Victoria’s Secret, Tiffany & Co and Oakley, all of which have targeted the Chinese market in recent years.

Her growing popularity in China could propel her into the ranks of the world’s highest-earning athletes if she can continue to avoid major controversy. Michael Payne, former chief marketing officer for the International Olympic Committee, cited China’s goal of involving 300 million people in winter sports when he described the opportunity for Gu as unprecedented.

“If you look at the most successful athletes like Michael Phelps, I think we were talking about winning up to $100 million…there’s no doubt that if she keeps winning the gold medals, she’ll be in the same league.” Winter Olympians, who compete in niche sports, generally lag behind their summer counterparts in purchasing power. Exceptions include snowboarder Shaun White, who earned $8 million in 2009 at his peak and $1.5 million in the 12 months leading up to the Beijing Games, according to Forbes.

GU-MANIA Gu’s looks, sporting achievements, dual citizenship appeal, and power as an influencer put her on a level all her own.

Following its Big Air freeskiing gold medal, Tiffany & Co started making headlines on Chinese social media after removing its Anta gloves to reveal four rings that netizens quickly identified as being made by the jeweler owned by LVMH, which Gu approves of. Chinese media has been buzzing with speculation about Gu’s endorsements, with the Beijing News reporting his fees at $2.5 million after tax and total revenue from brand deals over the past year at more than $100 million. yuan, citing industry sources. Media outlet Tianxiashangwang estimated that Gu’s earnings since the start of 2021 exceeded 200 million yuan ($31.5 million).

His agent Tom Yaps did not respond to a request for comment. Gu ticks several boxes in China with her image as a model student and pride in her decision to compete for her mother’s country of birth, said Bryce Whitwam, assistant professor of marketing at NYU in Shanghai.

“She’s extraordinarily charismatic and her attraction to Chinese culture and just the fact that she came to China to want to be Chinese, that’s a huge win for her,” he said, describing the “Gu- Chinese mania. TRAPS

With his carefully worded responses, which avoid directly addressing questions about his citizenship, and the Beijing-accented Mandarin that charmed many, Gu managed to avoid controversy during the Games, despite some grumbling online according to which she leads a life of privilege inaccessible to most. Hu Xijin, a prominent columnist for the Communist Party-run Global Times, suggested on Sunday that because Gu might end up choosing US citizenship, she should be encouraged as a member of the Chinese team, not as a as a patriotic symbol.

“She brings happiness to the Chinese public, so there is no shame in seeking commercial return,” Hu wrote. “But political elements should be minimized as much as possible. It’s risky for Gu Ailing to be that kind of vector,” he said. Unlike her gravity-defying ski tricks, Gu’s public persona is low-risk: she supports Black Lives Matter but avoids questions about human rights in China, instead portraying herself as a bridge builder and a global ski ambassador.

“Eileen did a great job making sure she didn’t say the wrong thing, but you know what? You’re going to get it wrong sometimes,” Whitwam said. Gu’s earning power in the two countries could be dampened by heightened bilateral tensions.

Her decision to compete for China has drawn criticism in the United States, while in China she must navigate what has been tightened celebrity surveillance, with many stars canceled by authorities after missteps. “It could be a simple Tweet, it could be a very simple mistake and they’ll scrub it from any type of coverage like they’ve done with many other Chinese celebrities,” Whitwam said. ($1 = 6.3551 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)