U.S. Speed Skating Finds Unlikely Sponsor

Andy SloanContributor IJanuary 20, 2010

The most unlikely of sponsors has stepped up to sponsor the US Speed Skating Team just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Actor Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” has stepped up to be the primary sponsor for the speed skating team after reading that the former primary sponsor could not fund the team any longer. “The Colbert Report” is a satirical news show on the Comedy Central channel that has been around for four years now and has won numerous awards including the Peabody Award and a few Emmy Awards and is one of the most watched shows on television. Colbert has already had skater Katherine Reutter on the show and has attended the Curling team, Bobsled team and Skeleton team’s tryouts in his new devotion to the Winter Olympics along with plugging the funding of the speed skating team with the link on his website for people to donate. "We must ensure that it is America's 38-inch thighs on that medal platform," Colbert said in a release announcing the sponsorship. Since Colbert announced his sponsorship with the speed skating team, the speed skating team has taken gold at the World Cup. Colbert signed the agreement on the show with U.S. Speed skating executive director Robert Crowley.

“Colbert Nation” will be stitched on to the hood and leg of the long-track skaters and for the short-track skaters “Colbert Nation” will be on the chest and leg of the uniform. "On their enormous, billboard thighs, it will say, 'Colbert Nation,'" Colbert said in an interview. "Be looking for that logo as it comes around the final turn. It will be easy to see because it will be in first place" Colbert goes on to say. The “Colbert Nation,” as he calls his fans, will be emblazoned on the speed skating team’s uniforms instead of “The Colbert Report” because neither Stephen Colbert, nor his show, will personally donate any money themselves. Rather, Colbert will call on his fans to raise money through donations to fund the team. However, relying on the fans of the show to raise money for the speed skating team could be quite a challenge in the wake of the hard economic times as well as the fact that we are just past the end of the holiday season. There could be some good news in that this is not the first time Colbert has asked his fans to donate to a cause; Colbert has also asked his fans to donate to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which is a fund that assists injured service members and their families.

The speed skating team has had some of the most well known Olympic athletes for the United States with speed skaters like Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen and Apolo Anton Ohno. In an email to Times Magazine Ohno said “BIG UP's to Stephen Colbert for his willingness to help out our nation's greatest athletes. I'm personally 100% in support of his show and think that this is a very good thing. NOW can I get on the show? *wink? haha." Ohno is expected to medal in this year’s Olympics in Vancouver, but he has not been on “The Colbert Report” yet. The speed skating team was in need of a sponsor after their primary sponsor, Dutch bank DSB, filed for bankruptcy in October. The bankruptcy of DSB left a $300,000 hole in the speed skating team’s budget that needed to be filled. The market price for the sponsorship logos on speed skating suits is $100,000. The U.S. speed skating team approached many different potential sponsors but nobody was willing to pony up the $100,000 needed for their name to be on the uniforms. Crowley realizes this is an “unconventional arrangement,” but said that it should generate exposure for the team. "We're highly optimistic that the country is going to get behind this and get behind the Colbert Nation and support this amazing team," Crowley said. Colbert stepping up to be the primary sponsor of the speed skating team earned him the cover of Sports Illustrated’s December 21st issue. I’d say that’s a good start to gaining more exposure to the speed skating team.