Sponsors standing firm behind Silken Laumann

Rower Silken Laumann is a month or two away from signing new endorsement contracts with several companies that are household names, her Toronto-based agent says.Elliott Kerr, president of the Landmark Sport Group, says Laumann will sign the deals in perhaps 30...

Rower Silken Laumann is a month or two away from signing new endorsement contracts with several companies that are household names, her Toronto-based agent says.

Elliott Kerr, president of the Landmark Sport Group, says Laumann will sign the deals in perhaps 30 to 60 days but adds he is not at liberty to disclose the names of the firms involved nor their businesses.

Laumann was front page news recently when she was stripped of her Pan American Games gold medal last month.

Laumann innocently used an over-the-counter medication that contained pseudoephedrine, a synthetic substance akin to ephedrine, a banned stimulant.

Her three teammates in the women’s quadruple sculls also lost their medals.

Despite the subsequent publicity surrounding Laumann, her current sponsors, such as Bell Mobility and i.d.a. drugstores, say they intend to keep her as their spokeswoman.

One new sponsor, Matsushita Electric of Canada, through its Panasonic division, went so far as to send a letter March 23 to Laumann in care of Rowing Canada.

It says, in part:

‘On behalf of our president, Steve Ushimaru, and the rest of the Panasonic family in Canada, I [corporate communications manager, Ian Kilvert,] would like to let you know that we support you during this very trying time. We know how honest and forthright you are and we stand behind you.’

Kilvert says the national rowing team will soon be featured in some advertising Panasonic is planning.

Panasonic announced its $250,000 donation to the national rowing team March 9, making it an official partner and sponsor of the men’s lightweight four, women’s heavyweight quad and Laumann.

It costs $500,000 a year to run the national junior and senior rowing squads.

Jacqueline Belsito, Rowing Canada’s marketing director, says Laumann’s bad luck could not have come at a worse time since the national rowing team’s sponsorship contracts are all up for renewal.

‘It’s been a marketer’s nightmare,’ said Belsito March 24 in a brief interview from Ottawa. ‘The last two days have been a hands-on lesson in crisis management.’

Belsito says Rowing Canada sponsors 3M Canada, Brooks, Monarch Homes, Corel, Shaklee and Ombrelle received reassurances from her office Laumann’s mistake was that, and nothing more.

Kerr says losing the Pan American gold medal will not have any impact on Laumann’s business career.

He says the incident in Argentina has strengthened Laumann’s relationship with sponsors who all wished they could do more for her once the story about the lost medal broke.

He says all the 30-year old Laumann wants to do now is concentrate on training for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

She will make a decision about her future after those Games.