Money Men, merchandisers and marketeers. Everyone wants a piece of Phelps Inc. A day after Supefish won the last of his pieces of eight, corporate executives stepped out of the shadows and some are suggesting that his work could go well beyond $100m by the time gets to London 2012.
Phelps, 23, just wants to chill out. "It's not about the money. I do what I do because I love it and that's why I'm here," he told the media at a VISA love-in at Beijing's 120-year-old Prince Jun Palace. "I see myself as a normal person and the same kid I was four years ago so I'm just living a dream right now."
"Michael Phelps is leaving Beijing as a global sports icon. He's now with the likes of the Michael Jordans, Tiger Woods and Roger Federers and he's earned every bit to be in that elite company," said Michael Lynch, head of global sponsorship at Visa.
Being the Greatest Olympian ever makes Phelps a different animal to market.
"This absolutely changes the game. The values will change, the depth of the programmes he is involved with will change, the breadth of these programmes will change," said Phelps's agent, Peter Carlisle, of Octagon.
Before Beijing, it was estimated that Phelps's sponsorship deals earned him about $5 million a year. No confirmation has been given. Sponsorship evaluator Joyce Julius & Associates estimated that Phelps's air-time value to Speedo was $3.6 million. That's the $1m bonus sorted then.
Much more is in the pipeline. Carlisle said previous Olympians had struggled to stay in the public eye between the Games but he was confident that Phelps Inc. would maintain its momentum due to a multi-layered marketing strategy that was not just focused on swimming competitions.
"You can't compare the platform he has now to anything that any swimmer has had in the past," said Carlisle. "He has worked to develop promotional platforms that can exist between the Games, irrespective of whether there is a competitive event. I think he can make swimming much more than a once-every-four-year sport in terms of relevance to the general public."
Asked about suggestions that Phelps is looking at $30m a year, Carlisle said: "If the strategy works with each of these platforms and business engines are fuelled, this amounts over time to arguably exponential growth in efficiency and in value."