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Mark Spitz on His Days as an Olympic Endorsement Pioneer

Pool Cool
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."