Gretchen Bleiler is one of the U.S. Olympic athletes helping pitch fundraising campaign |

Gretchen Bleiler is one of the U.S. Olympic athletes helping pitch fundraising campaign

Trying to piggyback on Independence Day patriotism, the U.S. Olympic Committee today will unveil a new fundraising blitz leading into the July 4 holiday.

Athletes ranging from 2008 Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson to potential 2010 Olympic skiing star Lindsey Vonn will appear in TV and print ads touting the “America Supports Team USA” campaign.

A pop-up box on the USOC’s website,, seeks a $5 instant donation from visitors to the site. The site also will sell T-shirts designed especially for the campaign, and $5 from the sale of each shirt will be donated.

Unlike the majority of national Olympic committees worldwide, the USOC does not receive any government funding. It makes most of its money from broadcast rights fees and sponsorships.

Approximately 80% of the organization’s operating budget goes toward supporting athletes, according to the USOC.

The USOC plans to run the new fundraising campaign every year at this time.

USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird says the campaign was developed after talking to sponsors about an opportunity to connect athletes with the American public. “Certainly to work with in this economy, but hopefully to work when times are better,” Baird said.

“It is an uncertain time for Americans because of the economy. Sports as you see is not immune to the current economic situation.”

The economy has had an impact on the Olympic movement. The USOC had layoffs in March to reduce costs. It has lost some sponsors, including General Motors and Home Depot, but has added others.

Other Olympic and Paralympic athletes featured in the campaign: figure skaters Jeremy Abbott and Johnny Weir, ice dancing couples Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto and Meryl Davis and Charlie White, snowboarders Gretchen Bleiler and Louie Vito, basketball player Lisa Leslie, speedskater Trevor Marsicano, track and field athlete Marlon Shirley, freestyle skier Ryan St. Onge.

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Posted on: June 2, 2009
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