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Phelps' Celeb Index Unchanged; 'Trust' Down

Originally published in Marketing Daily

Michael Phelps

February 10, 2009

Karl Greenberg

After the world saw Olympic multi-medalist Michael Phelps avec bong, Dallas-based sports marketing firm Millsport needed to do a redux. The Omnicom firm sent Phelps back through the Davie Brown Index (DBI) celebrity slicer-dicer to find out just how big a hit he took. So to speak.

The DBI rating arranges celebs on a brand-ability totem pole based on scores divvied up by awareness, appeal and relevance to brand image. The index--compiled by Millsport sister-agency Davie Brown Entertainment--is elaborated from survey responses from a national sample of 1,000 consumers. Davie Brown does the index every 90 days or so, per Darin David, managing director at Millsport. But Phelps' December score needed a do-over.

David says that Phelps' standing actually didn't change at all, pre- versus post-pot. "It didn't change because awareness levels for Phelps are so high, coming off Sportsman of the Year and coverage in numerous publications, and with the Olympics still fresh in peoples' minds," he says.

Phelps is still No. 3 behind Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, respectively. But David says that even with a 97% awareness score, his average score dropped more than 10 full points since Bongwatergate.

Behind Phelps, in descending order, are Muhammad Ali, Shaq, Lance Armstrong, George Foreman, Venus Williams, Magic Johnson, Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, David Beckham, Brett Favre, Charles Barkley, Mary Lou Retton and Eli Manning.

Index survey subjects first acknowledge that they do--or don't--recognize a celebrity's face and name, then proceed to a battery of questions that devolve to numeric scores on parameters like appeal (likeability), aspiration (is the celebrity's life one to which consumers would aspire?), awareness (percentage of respondents aware of face or name), endorsement (the degree to which consumers think the celeb is an effective product spokesperson), influence (degree to which consumers think the celebrity wields influence), breakthrough (how noticeable is the celebrity to consumers when he or she is on the tube, film or print?), trendsetter and trust.

Phelps' biggest drops on the index were in the realms of "aspiration" and "trust," with the swimmer dropping 15 points in each. His "endorsement" score dropped 12 points in the DBI.

While Oprah's trust score in the DBI dropped 8 points during the James Frey book scandal, it returned to normal levels 60 to 90 days later, as did Kobe Bryant's after his reputation was clouded by an arrest warrant around rape allegations in 2003. Not likely with Phelps, says David, because Phelps is out of the limelight, since swimming isn't exactly a marquee sport. Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, was able to erase his rape-allegation troubles with on-court televised performances in dozens of games per season.

"We are between Olympics right now, so I would see him dropping considerably, given how his numbers have already fallen," he says.

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Copyright © 2009 Davie Brown Entertainment

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