Missy Franklin: Amateur status 'still the plan right now'

Missy Franklin insisted Monday that she plans to maintain her amateur status so she can swim with a college team, although she acknowledged her multiple Olympic medals and new-found fame could have her swimming in million-dollar endorsements.

“It is still the plan right now, but I know there’s definitely going to be a talk in the future with my family and my coach just trying to figure out what is best for me,” she told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.

Franklin, 17, has stressed her desire to compete on a college team once she graduates from her Colorado high school next year because she thrives in a group environment.

“I do want to swim in college so badly,” she said. “I love being part of a team, and in college, that team is such a big part of who you are and what you do and I really want to get a chance to be a part of that.”  

Although an exact tally is difficult to estimate, Franklin could probably earn a million dollars in the next two years promoting food products, apparel, cosmetics and other items typically geared to American teenagers like herself, said Jim Andrews, senior vice president of IEG LLC, a Chicago-based sponsorship consulting and research firm.

Olympians are in different situations than professional football and baseball players, golfers and other athletes whose feats can be viewed weekly on television, Andrews pointed out. Spotlights usually shine on Olympians once every four years. Very few have year-round notoriety like Michael Phelps.

“Even in the off years, when we see Phelps doing Subway commercials and other things, we know who he is because he’s such a superstar. He’s transcended the games,” he said. 

Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, called Franklin’s decision highly unusual. Most star Olympians are seizing chances to capitalize on their fame.

“Being Olympians, you only have a narrow window to gain, and kind of recoup, some of the expenses you put in all those years of training,” he said. “To pass up on your high water mark has got to be a tough thing to do. It’s highly unusual.”

However, Andrews also pointed out that swimmers, unlike other athletes, tend to have longer competitive careers. At 17, Franklin could easily be expected to compete at another Olympics, should she stay healthy and free of injuries.

“Obviously, there are no guarantees. Will she win another four gold medal four years from now? It’s not a definite. There’s a risk she’s taking, but at least the possibility exists.”

Franklin won the nation over with her personality as easily as she won four gold medals and a bronze in her London Olympic competitions. Her youthful energy and down-to-Earth demeanor charmed fans, as did her insistence on experiencing life as an average teenager. For example, she enthusiastically told Guthrie one of the things she looks forward to the most in school next year is attending the football games with her friends.

But by forgoing promotional contracts and professional prize money to retain her amateur status, Franklin gives up deals similar to the ones that already have showered fellow American Olympic star Gabby Douglas. The gold-medal gymnast will be featured on a special edition of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes boxes. She also has cinched a contract with Proctor & Gamble, whose products include beauty brands such as CoverGirl, Olay, Pantene and Secret.

Although the Olympics have garnered her national attention quickly, Franklin said she feels very little has changed in her life.

“Maybe a few more people know who I am but really, that’s all that’s changed,” she said. “I still have the best family and friends and teammates in the world and just going to go home and be a normal high schooler.”

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NBC Olympics: Missy Franklin dominates the 200 back 

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