By Phillip Whitten
BALTIMORE, July 2. MICHAEL Phelps, 16, the reigning world champion and world record-holder in the 200 meter butterfly, signed with Octagon late last week. The giant entertainment agency will represent him in all commercial and promotional transactions. A formal announcement is expected later this week.
In 2000 when he was barely 15, Phelps became the youngest man to make a US Olympic swimming team since Ralph Flanagan in 1932. Phelps finished fifth in the event in a very close event that was won by the USA's Tom Malchow. By Spring 2001, he had matured and — still 15 — he became the youngest American man to set a world swimming record, clocking 1:54.92 at the USA Swimming Nationals in Austin. Later that summer, he lowered that mark to 1:54.58 while swimming to gold at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
At Octagon, Phelps will be represented by Peter Carlisle, who will handle all of the teenager's
marketing, endorsement and business matters.
"We plan to market Michael in two ways," Carlisle told SwimInfo: like any other top Olympian and as someone with a unique relationship — among swimmers, at least — with Gen Y.
"Marketers are moving away from the conventional sports to reach the Gen Y demographic," Carlisle explained, describing the age group between 8 and 26.
"But, except for his training, Mike lives the same lifestyle as these kids — he listens to the same music, dresses the same, plays the same video games. I think Mike may represent an opportunity to bring some of these marketers back into swimming."
Phelps swims for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where he is coached by Bob Bowman. In 2001,Bowman was recognized by the American Swimming Coaches Association as the USA's "Coach of the Year."