Swimmer Michael Phelps is synonymous with Olympic triumph. In 2000, at just 15 years old he made a splash as one of the youngest male swimmers to compete on the U.S. team—and later became the most decorated Olympian of all time. In between grueling training sessions, countless competitions and records set, Phelps has also become a fixture in ad campaigns. It’s undeniable that the swimmer — who has been tapped to represent everything from high fashion to HIV/AIDS awareness — has reached universal appeal from his Olympic success. As the champion prepares to dive into the Olympic pool one last time in Rio, take a look back at his adland career to watch him develop from a young, aspiring athlete to one who has defined the past two decades.
In one of his first ad appearances, Phelps takes a “lap” across the ocean in preparation for his 2004 Athens Olympic Games appearance. Although Phelps had not yet won any Olympic medals at the time, Visa saw the potential and signed Phelps in 2002, making him an inaugural member of the Olympic sponsor’s “Team Visa.”
Heading into the Beijing Games, expectations for the swimmer were high as many expected him to surpass Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in a single Olympics. So Phelps was a natural star for PowerBar’s “Power to Push” campaign, which aimed to illustrate both the physical and mental challenges athletes must overcome.
Longtime ESPN anchor Stuart Scott (and inaugural recipient of the CLIO Sports Stuart Scott Lifetime Achievement Award) was famous for his humor and quippy catchphrases, which were often captured in ESPN’s “This Is SportsCenter” ads. In 2008, Phelps had the privilege of appearing in one with Scott before the sportscaster died after a battle with cancer in 2015.
Under Armour (2010)
Launching a successful celeb-brand partnership, Phelps made his Under Armour sponsorship debut with the “Protect This House. I Will.” hype spot illustrating how he was preparing for London 2012. Although Phelps was also under a Speedo sponsorship deal, Under Armour — a company native to Baltimore, just like Phelps — became his official dry land gear.
Speedo was Phelps’ first-ever endorser when it signed the 16-year-old swimmer in 2001. One of the many ads Speedo and Michael Phelps created together through a 12-year partnership, this spot simply focused on Phelps’ love of swimming ahead of the 2012 Olympics.
Phelps’ mother Debbi is almost as much of an Olympic personality as her son, which Subway capitalizes on in this “Famous Fans” spot. A real life Subway fan, Phelps signed on to be one of Subway’s Famous Fans in 2008 following his record-breaking performance in Beijing.
Head & Shoulders (2012)
Indeed, Phelps stays “head and shoulders” above the competition. Ahead of London 2012, the athlete’s “Wash in Confidence” spot for the P&G brand shares how he gains the confidence needed to perform at his best.
Between his highly anticipated performance and his Team Visa status, Phelps was front and center in Visa’s “Go World” campaign for the 2012 Games. Immediately upon winning the medal that earned him the title of all-time most decorated Olympian, Visa aired this uplifting, congratulatory spot.
KRAVE Jerky (2016)
Apparently jerky is approved for the swimmer’s famous 12,000-calorie-a-day training diet. Ahead of Phelps’ final Olympic appearance, Hershey brand KRAVE Jerky jumped at the chance to include Phelps in its Olympic campaign with a teaser ad for its “KRAVE Better” campaign. Of his joining Team KRAVE, Phelps said that the products “have become a part of my lifestyle,” adding, “Throughout my career, I have been driven by the goals I have set for myself that have been designed to push me to dream bigger and reach further regardless of any past successes.”
As the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games, Omega is a natural connection for the swimmer whose achievements have all depended on accurate timekeeping. This 2016 spot features Phelps among other Olympians whose fates lie in the timekeeping balance.
Under Armour (2016)
Under Armour’s latest Phelps feature honors the swimmer’s final Olympic journey with a tribute to the hardships and sacrifices that have led him to glory. Complete with haunting music and the onscreen line, “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light,” the work from Under Armour and Droga5 even made Phelps and his fiancée shed a few tears. "To have a spot done like this one was, it's remarkable. It shows the raw things I've gone through to get to the point where I'm at. And that's something a lot of the public hasn't seen,” said Phelps upon viewing the spot.
The 2016 CLIO Awards Shortlist will be announced August 22nd. For more information on this celebration of creativity, visit clioawards.com.