Shooting competitions used to attract mass audiences a bit over a century ago, not today. Today’s urbanized, emasculated, hoplophobic America prefers ball games, and current reporting associates firearms only with terrorism and mass shootings. It is additionally more technically difficult for television to cover the shooting sports, and NBC cannot be bothered to make the effort.
Kimberly Rhode, who shoots skeet, is the first woman to medal in six consecutive Olympic games, but no big corporate sponsor wants anything to do with her.
When Team USAâ€™s Kim Rhode won a bronze medal in skeet shooting Friday, she claimed a piece of Olympic history: the 37-year-old Californian became the first woman to take the podium in six straight Olympics.
Landing a big-name sponsor might be the bigger feat. In the year leading up to Rio 2016, Rhodeâ€™s agent Patrick Quinn pitched her to around 20 companies that back the Olympics. None were convinced.
â€œThe big mystery is how someone like Kim isnâ€™t part of the Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and the Olympics sponsor push,â€™â€™ Quinn said by phone from Chicago.â€œIt would be nice to have an Olympic sponsor recognize the magnitude of her accomplishment.â€™â€™
Coca-Cola Co. didnâ€™t respond to a request for comment, and Procter & Gamble Co.â€™s spokesperson Damon Jones said in an e-mail the company receives hundreds of sponsorship requests so it must be selective. Rhode and other shooters on Team USA think the reason theyâ€™re passed over is obvious. The rise in gun violence and mass shootings in the US have attached a stigma to shooting as a sport, they say. So while companies like Winchester, Beretta and Otis Technology support Rhode, she doesnâ€™t have a single sponsor from outside the firearm industry.
The same is true for USA Shooting, even though the sport has since 2000 been the fifth-highest medal producer for the US team at Summer Olympics. The very first gold medal for any sport awarded in Rio went to 19-year-old Ginny Thrasher, competing in her Olympics debut.
Politics may only tell part of the story. American television audiences donâ€™t tend to watch shooting â€“ or, for that matter, a number of other sports. â€œThe biggest challenge is limited exposure,â€ said Peter Carlisle, head of the Olympic Sports and Action division at Octagon Worldwide. â€œIf the sport itself doesnâ€™t provide a consistent platform for the athletes to become recognizable and maintain relevance, thereâ€™s limited value to a sponsor.â€
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