Here in Australia we have a good swimmer called Ian Thorpe. Thorpe is the Olympic 400m freestyle champion swimmer. He was expected to win gold when he swan in the 400m in Athens this year.
But to get to Athens he first had to qualify at the national trials. He’s the best 400m swimmer by far, but he didn’t even qualify for the event. you see, whilst he was standing on the blocks at the start of the race he toppled into the water before the starter’s gun had gone.
And for that he was instantly disqualified. Which is the rule. So fair enough.
Another guy called Craig Stevens took Thorpe’s spot by coming second. There’s been a fair bit of public pressure for Stevens to step aside so Thorpe can defend his Olympic gold. (Stevens will be swimming at the Olympics regardless of whether he gives up the 400m spot).
The media have beat the story up nicely into a “Will he or won’t he” story.
What would you do?
Would you swim the race that you qualified for, even though it was a large slice of luck that got you there?
Or would you hand over the spot to the public darling (that’s Thorpe) and make yourself look good?
Before you answer, let’s toss this in:
- You’ve trained for years and years and years.
- You’ve gotten up at 4 am every day for 10 years to get you to this spot.
- You are a good swimmer, but you know you won’t win the event.
- Your profile is almost non-existent.
- You make very little, if any money, from the sport.
- If you swim, people will say you took the spot of a more deserving person.
- If you don’t swim, the larger Australian public will be rich in their praise of your decision.
Okay, moving on with this strategy
Let’s say you do pull out and give your spot up for Thorpe. Do you make that decision quickly and announce it at a media conference (or by sending out a media release)?
- Or do you let the hype build and build?
- Do you give vague and non-committal answers to the question?
- Do you stir the pot of public interest in the story?
- And then do you do the rounds of the major media outlets willing to sell your story to the highest bidder?
Because now (with the right advice) it’s not a simple case of “Yeah, it’s a bugger that Thorpe fell off the block. He should have my spot.”
It’s now headlines like this
How my Olympic Dream was smashed!
I did it for my country – patriot Craig Stevens shares the secrets of why he put Australia’s success before his own!
Craig Stevens – heartbreak as he realised the Olympic Dream wasn’t meant to be
Stevens – a great Australian
Craig Stevens – a lesson in honour
Craig Stevens – Australian of the Year!
People acting on behalf of Craig Stevens have been doing the rounds to sell the story, so he’s going for the cash and pulling out!
And it will be a big payday for a guy who has struggled to stay afloat financially in a tough sport.
All because of a solid PR strategy to keep his mouth shut for a while, gently build the story and the interest and then make the decision (and I’m sure the media will use the words “heartwrenching” and “broken Olympic dream”!) to give the spot up to Thorpe.
And not only will he get the big payday, but his value for sponsors will increase dramatically.
Sport is a business. And Craig Stevens is a businessman whether he thinks he is or not.
There endth the PR startegy example.