Katie Ledecky announced her decision to turn pro and forgo her final two years of collegiate eligibility last Monday, meaning that she will be in the market for sponsor deals in the near future.
Ledecky has taken the first step in that direction, signing with Wasserman Senior Vice President of Olympic and Women’s Sports, Dan Levy.
Wasserman (formerly Wasserman Media Group) has represented a number of high-profile female athletes including US soccer players Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, and Alex Morgan, and basketball players Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, and Brittney Griner. The company also boasts Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and Giancarlo Stanton in its list of represented athletes.
Wasserman Chairman/CEO Casey Wasserman was behind the LA2024 (now 2028) push as the Chair of LA2024. Janet Evans, who is often tied to Ledecky through their distance swimming prowess and tenures at Stanford, worked closely with Wasserman on the bid. However, Evans is not represented by Wasserman’s company and is instead with Chicago Sports and Entertainment Partners.
“It’s rare that an athlete turns pro and they have a business on Day 1,” Levy said in an interview with the Washington Post. “We feel we have the luxury — and Katie feels this way, too — in being very strategic and trying to put together a plan first and then find the right partner companies that fit what she wants to do moving forward.”
Likely, Levy and Ledecky will aim to leverage long-term deals — perhaps ones that would run through not only Toyko 2020, but Paris 2024 as well.
“My goal when it comes to endorsements is to take a balanced approach to my business,” Ledecky said. “I will be seeking the support of sponsors who understand my commitment to training, to my education and to my growth as a person. I also am excited to work with people and companies who understand that they are also investing in my journey to have success in the pool.”
Because she has already been so successful on the international stage, Ledecky is in a fairly unique position to leverage her talent to be in full control in the negotiation process.
“She’s accomplished so much prior to turning professional that she is in a position to influence a lot of the decisions that will be made going forward,” Levy said. “Whereas if she was another athlete just turning pro, sometimes you have to compromise a little bit more just to earn a living.”
Both Levy and Ledecky stressed that they will be cautious in making sure that her out-of-pool obligations do not hinder her performance in it.
“We understand that the swimming is the most important thing, and that’s the platform that everything builds from,” Levy said.
By turning pro with two years left in the Olympic cycle, Ledecky gives herself time to adjust to whatever those outside obligations might entail. She also noted that in 2016, though she was still an amateur, she did have commitments outside of practice and racing.
“I also have been able to observe what has worked for other professional athletes, and the support that I have received from family and friends is crucial,” Ledecky said.
As for the brands she’ll represent? Levy is confident that Ledecky’s fame will bring her endorsements outside of the swimming world as well as the big ones in it.
“Katie’s such a smart and thoughtful person. You combine that with her excellence in the pool, and you just get an incredible force. I think we are always excited to work with women who are really committed to making a positive impact on the next generation as well,” Levy said. “There’s no question that Katie already transcends the sport of swimming.”