Sports Stars Still Find Endorsement Gold in China

US swimmer Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. China Photos/Getty Images

Last month Michael Phelps was back in China, scene of his triumph at the 2008 Summer Olympics. By winning a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games, Phelps not only endeared himself to corporate sponsors, such as Activision (ATVI), AT&T (T), and Subway, but also local fans grateful that he helped make China's big show so memorable. That's why Japanese automaker Mazda probably thought it had a sure thing by signing Phelps in January to a seven-figure endorsement deal to pitch its cars in China. The company, with joint-venture partner First Auto Works, brought the star swimmer to the Chinese capital for six days to shoot a TV commercial and do promotional appearances. "Coming back here four months after the Olympics sort of brings back some memories," Phelps said during a break from his shoot. "I'm enjoying the ride and loving every minute of it."

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