Mark Spitz on His Days as an Olympic Endorsement Pioneer

10:00 AM PST 07/27/2012 by Bill Higgins
Mark Spitz

He won seven gold medals in 1972, and he's still getting endorsement deals today.

This story first appeared in the August 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

After winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics, 22-year-old swimmer Mark Spitz had $50,000 in cash from a poster deal before he landed back in Los Angeles. And that was before the William Morris Agency's Norman Brokaw lined up $5 million more in endorsement contracts for the soon-to-be-former dental school student. "I was like a pioneer," says Spitz from Istanbul, where he recently was a guest of the Turkish Olympic Committee and swam in the 6.5-kilometer Intercontinental Bosphorus Race.

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"Nobody had come up from the surface after being an Olympian to capture the world's attention like I did. Wall Street and Madison Avenue embraced it, but the only experience they had was Joe Namath -- and he did pantyhose ads."

Spitz did Schick razor commercials and Speedo swimsuit ads (while turning down a Tarzan remake) but was best known for his milk ad: "Milk is for everybody," said Spitz in the commercial, repeating the line to THR with a weary emphasis on the last word. Although his sponsorship days didn't last long, Spitz says he "was able to navigate those times pretty well financially."

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This year, he appeared in a commercial for Ageless Male, a testosterone supplement. Spitz, who lives in the Bay Area, gave up on becoming a dentist to work in PR and as a motivational speaker and financial adviser. Now 62 and married with two sons, Spitz says he has been told he bears a resemblance to Ted Danson and says, "Maybe he should give me a part on CSI as his long-lost brother."

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