2018 Winter Olympic Athletes: Sure Things, Solid Shots, Sleepers

By Greg Goldring, Senior Director of Sports & Entertainment

There’s a collective excitement worldwide as we all turn our eyes (and our TVs) to PyeongChang for the 2018 Olympic Games. The Winter Games officially kicked off last night, but this evening’s Opening Ceremony is the big event we’ve all been waiting for.

 

What most people may not realize is the army of support that goes into not only the athletes training aggressively, for in many cases, four straight years for Olympic qualification, but the planning and marketing that goes into each Olympic cycle starting at least two years out.

 

Fans are just starting to watch these athletes, but our teams at The Marketing Arm have been pounding the pavement, speaking with agents, interviewing athletes, and attending summits and competitions over the past year to get our own competitive edge and make the brands we work with look smarter by recommending athletes that not only make the games, but elevate the athlete and the brand.

 

The average fan leading up to the games likely only knows who NBC is promoting, who sponsors choose to have featured at 100 Days Out and in their advertising campaigns. This period is the beginning of what is known as the “Olympic Halo.” Heavier marketing on NBC picked up this past week around the Super Bowl with commercials featuring Winter Olympics even airing during the game.

 

Heading into any Olympics, what we’ll see if you ask your friends and coworkers who they know, are athletes mainly from big sports. For the Winter Games, the biggest sports are often Figure Skating, Skiing, Snowboarding, Ice Hockey (although no NHL Players this year!), and Speed Skating. But, there are plenty of unsung heroes for Team USA – which features 103 returning Olympians, including 37 Medalists and 10 Olympic Champions.

 

So, what athletes should you be looking out for at the Winter Olympics this year? Check out our list of athletes that are sure things, have a solid shot, and those you don’t want to sleep on.

 

SURE THINGS

Shaun White, Snowboarder

[Olympic Medals: 2 Gold]

Widely regarded as the top Snowboarder of all time, Shaun missed the podium for the first time in Sochi and is coming back with a vengeance to win big.

 

Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skier

[Olympic Medals: 1 Gold]

Poised to be the future star of several games to come, 22-year-old Mikaela is already an international sensation. She just won her first gold medal in Sochi and will be a forced to be reckoned with in PyeongChang.

 

Lindsey Vonn, Alpine Skier

[Olympic Medals: 1 Gold, 1 Bronze]

Lindsey is the winningest skier of all time, just notching her 81st win. She’s an A-level marketing star who has been featured regularly with top brands.

 

SOLID SHOT

Gus Kenworthy, Freestyle Skier

[Olympic Medals: 1 silver]

Clearly the winner of the marketing blitz in the lead up to all US Olympic campaigns, Gus was featured on Ellen right before leaving for PyeongChang. He is the face of the LGBTQ community in sports right now. At just 26-years-old, Gus (who won second in Sochi) finds himself on the older side of the team. He will need to go big to win.

 

Kelly Clark, Snowboarder

[Olympic Medals: 1 Gold, 3 Bronze]

Returning for her fifth Olympics, Kelly is a true veteran on the team and outshines much younger competitors like Chloe Kim. Kelly credits a lot of her ability to make her fifth Olympic team to her training, which she only officially started after the 2010 Games.

 

Kikkan Randall, Cross-Country Skier

[Olympic Medals: 0]

The only mom on Team USA, Kikkan is also returning for her fifth Games and hoping to win her first Olympic medal. She is the United States’ best shot at winning its first gold in Biathlon (a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting).

 

SLEEPERS

Nathan Chen, Figure Skater

[Olympic Medals: 0]

Though he got off to a rough start, we’re not sleeping on 18-year-old Nathan Chen. He is the reigning two-time US men’s champion and the first male skater to land four quadruple jumps in competition. We’re rooting for you, Nathan!

 

The Shib Sibs (AKA Maia & Alex Shibutani), Figure Skaters

[Olympic Medals: 0]

The Shibutanis are heading into their second Olympics after placing ninth at the Sochi Games. Since then, the brother-sister duo have medaled three times – a silver and two bronzes – at the World Championships. They’re already getting coverage as fan favorites and they’ve got a great nickname, so we will be watching to see how things go for them in PyeongChang.

 

Red Gerard, Snowboarder

[Olympic Medals: 0]

Red is competing in two events and already has almost 54K Instagram followers – not uncommon for a snowboarder. This 17-year-old will be representing Team USA for the first time in PyeongChang, competing in the Slopestyle and Big Air events.

 

Maame Biney, Short Track Speedskater

[Olympic Medals: 0]

While Maame Biney is yet to compete in PyeongChang, the 18-year-old is already making history. Born in Ghana before moving to the US when she was 5, Maame is the first female African American to make the US Speedskating team. Watch for Maame’s big smile, which is always on display, as she goes for gold in her first Olympic Games.

 

BONUS

Leslie Jones, Olympics Super Fan & NBC Commentator

[Olympic Medals: 0]

She already has everyone talking after her live-tweeting during last night’s figure skating, so we see a major awareness boost coming for both Leslie and Olympians she is interacting with and tagging during the Olympics. Attending originally as a Super Fan in Rio, she created headlines and is on duty in a Super Fan/On-Site Reporting capacity this time around.

 

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