As the Games face of Nike, Coca-Cola, Visa, China Mobile and Yili, Liu earned a reported 163.2 million yuan (US$23.9 million) in 2007, propelling him to third on Forbes’ Famous Chinese People list. However, his failure on the track will limit the amount of exposure these sponsors gain.
“There has been so much pressure on [Liu]. Over the past couple of weeks the Chinese press have been guardedly telling the public that he was not right and he had a problems with his [fitness],” notes Mark Thomas of Shanghai-based sports marketing firm S2M.
But according to Thomas, Liu’s sponsors will not be too worried about his injury, having already had their money’s worth out of him in the run-up to the Games: “A large amount of value has already been obtained. The success of sponsorship based on him is not a failure because he did not run - a win would have been the icing on the cake.”