Bolt attracts the crowds and draws the sponsors

STOCKHOLM, (Reuters) – The fastest man in the world  stares at a blank piece of paper for a few seconds and, finding  no inspiration, turns to his manager.

“Rick, what should I write?”

Usain Bolt

Ricky Simms, the director of PACE Sports Management who  manages Usain Bolt, gives a look of mock disdain.

Bolt had been asked to write a greeting to the people of  South Korea ahead of the Daegu world championships starting this  month. Finding the right words is apparently not covered in  Simms’ contract.

It is one of the few details not looked after by Simms, his  coaches and his staff, who choose which events Bolt attends to  maximise his success on the track and his outside earnings.

Smiling as he surveyed the media scrum surrounding his  client on the eve of last Friday’s Stockholm Diamond League  meeting, Simms explained how he helped plan Bolt’s season.

He said although he offered suggestions, it was Bolt’s  coaches who ultimately decided where and when the 24-year-old  Jamaican ran.

“We work together on it in November of each year and present  it to him in January or February. He trusts his coaches to make  those decisions, he’s an easy guy to work with,” said Simms, who  is a qualified coach and a former middle distance runner.

As soon as Bolt’s participation in Stockholm was announced,  local media began speculating wildly about his purse. Simms,  though, will give no financial details about the man who was the  sensation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he won three gold  medals in world record times.

“I see a lot of figures quoted, but what he makes at each  meeting is confidential,” Simms said. “He’s the biggest athlete  ever.

“What he brings to a meet in terms of media attention? I  think in Rome there were 20,000 more fans in the stadium because  he was there. It’s hard to put a value on it — maybe he’s worth  double what he gets paid.”

FIFTY PERCENT TAX

In 2010, the year after Bolt shattered his own 100 and 200  metres records at the Berlin world championships, he pulled out  of the Diamond League meeting at Crystal Palace due to British  tax laws. Bolt would have had to pay 50 percent of his  appearance fee in tax, plus further tax on a portion of his  global sponsorship income.

Stockholm tournament director Rajne Soderberg told Reuters  Bolt would pay only 15 percent of his purse in a so-called  “artist tax” for his appearance in Sweden, even though the  Scandinavian country has a reputation for crippling taxes.

Like Simms, Soderberg also declined to discuss what Bolt was  to be paid.

“He is the big seller of athletics, there is no one who  comes close in terms of the interest he generates,” he told  Reuters. “We saw a clear difference in ticket sales when we  announced that he would be taking part.

Soderberg does not just measure Bolt’s value in ticket  sales.

The annual DN Galan is hugely popular in Sweden and sells  out regularly but, Soderburg said, Bolt’s presence brought an  extra dimension for sponsors.

“The value comes next year and the year after, the meet he  is at creates a certain level, and then everyone else feels that  they have to be there too,” he said.

Perhaps mindful of how much it costs to bring Bolt to  Stockholm, Soderberg makes sure to get maximum exposure from his  participation for both the tournament and the sponsors.

A news release about hiring a Jamaican cook to cater for  Bolt generated huge coverage locally and, when Bolt arrived at  the airport, there was no limousine waiting.

REGULAR TRAVELLER

Instead, Bolt told the waiting reporters he would take the  Arlanda Express train, one of the tournament sponsors, to the  city like any other regular traveller.

But even though he brokers deals like the one agreed with  Soderberg to bring Bolt to Sweden for a third time and makes  sure his client is well briefed, Simms does not see himself as a  wheeler-dealing sports agent in the traditional sense.

“In athletics, an agent is more like a management company. I  use Manchester United as an example, I do what Alex Ferguson  does for the players. It’s different to football agents, which  is more doing deals. We do all the concierge-type stuff. We do  everything.”

Judging by the still-blank piece of paper in Bolt’s hand,  maybe “everything” is stretching the point. But there is no  doubt that Bolt is relaxed in Simms’ presence, calm in   the knowledge that everything is being taken care of.

On Friday, Bolt recorded his first win on Swedish soil at  his third attempt, cruising to victory over the 200 in 20.03  seconds on a blustery night at the Olympic stadium. In his two  previous appearances he had lost to compatriot Asafa Powell and  American Tyson Gay over the 100.

Soderberg said he was aiming to bring Bolt back to Stockholm  for a fourth time next year and would be asking for more money  from the sponsors.

“Yes, we can do that,” he said. “It will be more attractive  to be a part of it. It will be worth more. I can’t say how much  more, but he’s worth the money.”

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