Why Usain wins even if he bolts from Mariners deal

As quickly as he sprinted onto the A-League horizon, Usain Bolt may now be dashing in the other direction, with the main beneficiary of the frenzied publicity blitz surrounding his brief flirtation with Central Coast Mariners being the eight-time Olympic champion’s multi-million dollar brand.

Usain Bolt

Source: Getty Images

That, at least, is the theory of a London-based agent and sports analyst with links to Bolt’s management team.

While the 31-year-old may harbour genuine ambitions to play professional football - however misguided they might be - with Team Bolt, a financial imperative is invariably part of any equation.

Hence, in the view of the analyst, the fervour surrounding his dalliance with the Mariners, and a potential six-week trial, serves a vital purpose that has nothing to do with the A-League: proving to sponsors, existing and potential, that the Jamaican track legend remains relevant and resonant, despite hanging up his spikes last year.

Anything Football Federation Australia and Mariners could pay him for a professional contract is chicken feed compared with the main game of perpetuating Bolt’s significance as an iconic figure worthy of generating millions of sponsorship dollars in perpetuity.

His contract with main backer Puma was worth $18.4 million last year - more than Cristiano Ronaldo nets from Nike - and he is tied to the German sports apparel giant until 2025.

He earned an estimated $43 million last year - making him the 32nd-highest paid sportsmen in the planet - and is thought to be worth at least $85 million.

His corporate backers also include Gatorade, Hublot, Virgin Media and Nissan Motors, with deals ranging up to $3.5 million annually.

But too much is never enough when it comes to the canny management of his long-time agent, former Irish middle distance runner Ricky Simms, who masterminds Bolt’s business empire from above Simms Opticians in the sedate south-west London suburb of Teddington.

“Realistically, all Usain has ever known is making loads of money using sponsorships and the power of social media, and his agent knows that,” said the analyst.

“Even if he was going to play football professionally he’d make far more in the MLS, Europe or Asia than Australia, which is a very limited market for him in terms of sponsorships.

“I think Ricky is playing a clever game - he’s trying to keep Usain relevant with high levels of publicity, whilst very possibly negotiating with various sponsors behind the scenes.

“It’s all about demonstrating that even a story as relatively minor as this generates so many millions of hits on social media.”

Since the story broke earlier this week, independent media analysis shows over 130 million people worldwide have digested the news.

“Usain is in his post-career stage and when negotiating contracts with sponsors, whether new deals or extensions, you need to go in on the front foot and demonstrate your continuing cache across the board,” added the analyst.

“If Bolt were to actually end up as a footballer that would be just a by-product and a bonus.

“There are different layers to this episode with the Mariners, and football is probably the very least of it.”

Whilst Bolt appears to have led a willing Central Coast into what may prove a cul-de-sac, there may be positive spin-offs for the Gosford club, in terms of their own relevance, whether he comes or not.

It would seem probably not, with Simms appearing to be trying to let the Mariners down gently by leaking interest from the US, Turkey and Hungary in Bolt ‘the footballer’.

“Either way Central Coast could gain from the experience because they have (two) visa spots available and they are also, I believe, trying to sign actual footballers,” said the analyst.

“All this publicity has helped because if Bolt came then you could sell it as a project playing alongside him, with a big torch shining on the club.

“If not then the club has at least announced its presence as an existing entity to a wider market.

“Many will see the whole thing as farcical, but it’s manna from heaven for the Mariners and their owner [Mike Charlesworth] in terms of a spike in publicity.

“But there is also the downside of the club being seen as a bit of joke.

“Perhaps now might be a good time for both the Mariners and the A-League to move on and get on with dealing with genuine footballers and the business of improving the game in Australia.”

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4 min read
Published 20 July 2018 at 12:15pm
By Dave Lewis