• Missy Franklin's dilemma: Go pro or go to college?

    Missy Franklin swam into our hearts, and won four gold medals, at the London Olympics. What's next: College, or lucrative endorsement deals?

    Plenty of advertisers would love Missy to represent their products, and she could probably make millions on endorsements but that would mean giving up her amateur eligibility and missing the chance to swim at the collegiate level.

    “Right now, I’m still very set on swimming in college, but my decision has become a lot harder," she told NBC's Miguel Almaguer on TODAY Thursday. "It has become extremely difficult there are so many pros and so many cons to consider.”

    And she said she does fantasize about the cash. "Turning down this amount of money is unheard-of. I mean, it's absolutely absurd. It's an amazing opportunity."

    It's a dilemma many parents would love to have: Do you let your insanely talented child go for the endorsement deals, the major-league contract, the Broadway auditions  or do you insist they go to college first? Supermodel Beverly Johnson recently told TODAY.com that her "biggest fear" was that her daughter would start modeling and not finish school. (Of course, that's exactly what her daughter Anansa did, though she eventually went back and got her bachelor's and an MBA.)

    It's Missy's future, and it's her decision and from what we saw during the Olympic games, she certainly seems to have a good head on her shoulders. But we're sure her parents will weigh in on the decision. What would you do? 

    Related stories:

    Video: Missy Franklin's mom: Missy is 'always happy'

    Daughter has Olympic dreams, but does mom?

    Watch out, Lochte, these cute kids are pool hungry too

    Slideshow: The most marketable Olympians 

  • Gymnastics' Fierce Five look impressive -- but not impressed -- on Letterman

    John Paul Filo / CBS

    The Fierce Five, including Kyla Ross, Jordyn Weiber, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, share their post-Olympic thoughts with David Letterman.

    There is a method to the U.S. women's gymnastics team madness.

    "You don't drink coffee beforehand, do you?" David Letterman asked the aptly named Fierce Five during their interview Tuesday on "The Late Show."

    "We eat cornflakes," offered McKayla Maroney, who may have won silver on the vault but deserves gold when it comes to marketing, the team of course currently being featured on boxes of Kellog's Corn Flakes at a supermarket near you.

    Miss Gabby Douglas on 'The Tonight Show'? Catch up on the highlights here!

    "That is the secret to our success," a similarly beaming Ali Raisman chimed in.

    "She's figured something out, hasn't she," Letterman said approvingly.

    Then, turning to all-around individual gold medalist Gabby Douglas, who jetted to New York to be with her team after last night's solo appearance on The Tonight Show, he asked how she felt about making history as the first Africa-American all-around champ.

    Check out McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross as even tinier gymnasts

    "I wanted to inspire a nation, so I can check that off my bucket list," the 16-year-old said, prompting incredulous responses, er, all around.

    "Wow, that's a hard bucket list," Raisman said.

    "Love it," chirped Maroney, who admitted when asked that she doesn't think that her teammates are so-called "normal" girls.

    "I think we're special," she said.

    Letterman also had to ask Maroney about the not-impressed memes, taking it upon himself to speculate that the cameras caught her in a contemplative moment and made it silly.

    Which of the Fierce Five made our list of 10 Olympians we'd like to see on 'Dancing With the Stars'?

    "It is pretty funny," Maroney said, obviously not impressed with the host's too-serious interpretation. "After I did it, the girls kept pointing it out, 'You're doing that face again.'"

    "Every time she does it, we're like, 'There it is!'" Raisman said. "We've all been working on it."

    And then he got the whole team to do their best McKayla-isn't-impressed impressions -- until the giggles took over, that is.

    Are you impressed with the team's success? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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  • Olympians return to all corners of the earth bruised, triumphant and laden with gold

    Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

    Kim Hyeon-woo, front right, gold medalist in the Men's 66Kg Greco-Roman wrestling, sports a black eye as he poses with other athletes upon the South Korean national team's arrival in Incheon, west of Seoul on August 14, 2012.

    Paul Raats / EPA

    An aerial view made with the help of an Octocopter, a remote controlled helicopter, shows a ceremony for the Dutch Olympic contestants on a medal-shaped stage at the Stationsplein in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, on August 13, 2012.

    Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP - Getty Images

    Japanese women's volleyball captain Erika Araki, left, and her teammates are welcomed by wellwishers upon their return from the London 2012 Olympic Games at Narita airport, outside Tokyo, on August 14, 2012.

    Omar Sobhani / Reuters

    Taekwondo bronze medalist Rohullah Nikpai waves to the crowd during a procession for his homecoming in Kabul , Afghanistan, on August 14, 2012. Hundreds of jubilant Afghans packed the national stadium to welcome the nation's second Olympic medal winner.

    AFP - Getty Images

    Qatar's Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, center, son of the Emir of Qatar (and not an Olympic competitor, despite the medal), welcomes Nasser al-Attiyah, right, bronze medalist in the skeet men's final, and Mutaz Essa Barshim, left, bronze winner in the men's high jump, upon their arrival in Doha, Qatar on August 13, 2012.

    Alexander Nemenov / AFP - Getty Images

    Members of the Russian Olympic national team show their medals upon their arrival at Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow on August 13, 2012.

    Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

    Brazil's volleyball player Adenizia Silva poses for a photograph with a fan in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 13, 2012. Brazil's women produced a dazzling comeback to win Olympic volleyball gold on Saturday, prompting a sneak preview of what life might be like in Rio de Janeiro in four years time.


    Taoufik Makhloufi, left, who won the gold medal in the men's 1500m final, parades in a car upon his return to Algiers, Algeria, on August 13, 2012. Makhloufi is the only Algerian among the 39 participants in the London Olympics to win a medal.

    Vanderlei Almeida / AFP - Getty Images

    Rio de Janeiro's city mayor Eduardo Paes, left, and the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee Carlos Arthur Nuzman, center, wave the Olympic flag upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro on August 13, 2012.

    Click for more of the best images from the 2012 summer games in London.


  • Michael Phelps hops in the tub with Louis Vuitton

    Louis Vuitton

    Olympian Michael Phelps shows off his swimming Speedo for fashion giant Louis Vuitton.

    Lucky for us, the end of Michael Phelps’ swimming career doesn’t mean the end of him strutting his stuff in a Speedo.

    Though the swimmer announced his retirement at the London 2012 Olympics, it looks like the most decorated Olympian of all time isn’t quite ready to pack up the goggles and call it a day especially when it comes to hawking handbags.

    What is the first of what will probably be a maelstrom of product endorsements by Phelps, Louis Vuitton just unveiled a new ad for its iconic bags with the famous swimmer front-and-center. The ad shows Phelps, 27, giving a sultry look while reclined in a bathtub, goggles resting on his forehead. The Louis Vuitton bag is just beside him with a pair of folded jeans resting on top of it. We don't see a shirt anywhere, and that's ok with us. The campaign was reportedly shot by Annie Leibovitz. 

    In another photo for the fashion brand's campaign, Phelps has apparently emerged from the bathtub squeaky clean and ready to drink tea with Larisa Latynina of Russia, 77, who held the record as the most decorated Olympian. She held the title for the last 48 years until Phelps' performance in London. Phelps now holds 22 medals, and Latynina, a former gymnast, held a record 18 medals.  

    The ad marks Phelps' first post-2012 Olympics ad campaign and it comes ahead of his first television gig, a reality TV show on the Golf Channel called "The Haney Project," which follows his training by Hank Haney, the previous coach of Tiger Woods. We’d like to suggest Phelps keeps his current fashion statement of a Speedo with minimal accessories while practicing his golf swing.

    It was a surprise for some fashionistas to see Phelps in the ad for the bags, as his former teammate and rival Ryan Lochte is a noted clotheshorse and lover of high fashion. Lochte was also the unofficial heartthrob of the London Olympics, and could arguably be the more likely guy ladies would like to trap in their bathroom, especially since Phelps is happily coupled with model Megan Rossee. But perhaps Lochte is just in the next bathroom over, adjusting his grills in anticipation of his closeup.

    What do you think of Phelps' new ad campaign? Are you a fan? Let us know!

    More: Worth it? New $50 ponytail bar offers celeb-inspired services
    The TODAY talent's favorite summer perfumes
    7 glammed-up Olympians who blow our minds

  • TODAY live-blogs the London Olympics closing ceremony

    TODAY editors live-blogged the Olympics closing ceremony as it happened, curating the top tweets, Instagrams and Flickr photos.

    Read about the pop extravaganza on NBCOlympics.com.

  • How'd he do that? Olympic sprinter breaks leg, keeps running

    Anja Niedringhaus / AP

    United States' Manteo Mitchell competes in a 4x400-meter relay heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London on Thursday. Manteo had half a lap to go in the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries when he broke his leg, and was faced with a choice: keep running or stop and lose the race.

    He heard the break. He felt the pain. And he just wanted to lie down.

    But after he broke his leg during the semifinal round of the men’s Olympic 4 x 400 meter relay on Thursday, sprinter Manteo Mitchell kept on running, even though, he said, “It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half.”

    “It’s impressive both because he’s dealing with pain as well as not having all of his parts in an optimal situation,” says Dr. Balu Natarajan, a sports medicine specialist in Chicago.

    He attributes Mitchell’s feat to a combination of the highly trained athlete’s fight-or-flight response to pain and the fact that the bone he broke in his lower left leg, the fibula, absorbs less shock and does less work than the other leg bones.

    “Part of it was that the fibula contributes less to weight bearing as opposed to the femur and tibia and part of it is that in that high-energy situation, he has enough adrenaline and endorphins kicking throughout his body that he’s feeling a lot less pain at that moment,” said Natarajan, who also serves on the medical team of the Chicago Marathon.

    Had the 25-year-old Mitchell broken his femur or tibia, it would have been nearly impossible for him to finish the race, he said. If a leg bone had to break, he was in a sense lucky it was the fibula.

    “If it’s a short enough distance and a high level enough athlete, even with a broken fibula, someone can finish the race,” Natarajan said.

    In a statement released through USA Track & Field, Mitchell said the roar of the crowd was so loud that nobody heard his “little war cry,” and he said he didn’t want to let his teammates down. Mitchell finished his heat in 46.1 seconds, only 1.5 seconds longer than the runner of the next leg; the U.S. qualified for the finals and finished in the fastest time ever run in the first round of the relay at the Olympics. On Friday, the U.S. team went on to win a silver medal, thanks in part to Mitchell's sacrifice.

    In a high-stakes event like the Olympics after years of training, athletes sometimes will stop at nothing, experts say.

    “There’s so much that’s tied into the psyche during a race like this, it really can override a lot of things we would feel outside of such a high energy situation,” Natarajan said. “If the same thing happened on training run and no one was around, he would very likely have stopped.”

    “Anybody who has trained for a particular event for four years, really they have one goal, and between that and the tremendous conditioning and excellent biomechanics, it’s really the perfect confluence of factors that might allow someone to overcome a break like this,” he said.

    Mitchell said he had slipped on the stairs a few days earlier, but had it checked out, felt fine and didn't think much of it. Mitchell’s strong finish in the race was a clear example of a top athlete’s ability to put mind over matter, says Frank Smoll, a professor of sport psychology at the University of Washington.

    “It’s a very good illustration of how highly motivated they are and their willingness to pursue and persist and play through pain, so that the importance of what they’re doing really outweighs the potential negative consequences, in this case, physical harm,” he said.

    “They’re highly dedicated athletes, they’re courageous, and they’re willing to, at their own self-sacrifice, give it their all,” Smoll said.

    The training Olympic athletes receive in "attention control," the ability to block out distractions like pain, helps them succeed, Smoll said, adding: “It’s not just the physical ability that makes the elite athletes but the mental preparation is what makes them excel.”

    The U.S. men's 4 x 400 relay team won a silver medal on Friday; Mitchell, who has been fitted with a boot and crutches, will receive a medal with the rest of the team.


  • Silver screen, gold medalists: Olympians pick top sports films

    Warner Bros. Pictures; Sarika Dani, NBC News

    Left, Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby"; right, boxing gold medal baby Claressa Shields, 17.

    The London Games are winding down, and it's a long time until the 2014 Winter Olympics. But you don't have to wait that long to experience the thrill of victory again there are plenty of inspiring and entertaining sports moments to be enjoyed through the magic of the movies. We asked Olympians from many disciplines to reveal their favorite sports films; here are the ones they put on their personal podiums.

    Claressa Shields, boxing

    The 17-year-old who won the first U.S. gold medal in women’s Olympic boxing names “Ali,” starring Will Smith as Muhammad Ali, and “Million Dollar Baby,” which won Hilary Swank a Best Actress Oscar as a boxer who beats the odds, among her favorite sports films. “They both have something to do with boxing and they are both good stories,” she told TODAY.com.

    Jamie Gray, shooting

    “‘Miracle’ is such an inspiration,” Gray told TODAY.com, referring to the 2004 film about the U.S. men's hockey team's remarkable gold medal win over the heavily favored Soviet team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. “I always watch before matches,” she added, but confessed that at the London Games, “I fell asleep.” (No harm done; Gray is bringing home the gold in the women's 50m rifle, 3 positions.)

    NBC, MGM

    Pole vaulter Jenn Suhr loves "Rocky IV."

    Jenn Suhr, track & field

    Suhr is a pole vaulter, so it's a bit of a surprise that her favorite sports film is a boxing movie: "Rocky IV." Why? “Because of the fight between Rocky and Ivan Drago!” she exclaimed. “Plus, our training center in Rochester, New York is called the Meat Cooler," she added. "It’s a big metal and steel building. It reminds us of the scenes from the movie.”

    Serena Williams, tennis

    The tennis superstar was one of the two Olympians TODAY.com spoke to whose favorite sports film is a comedy (the other was swimmer Matt Grevers, who chose "Cool Runnings," the John Candy film about a Jamaican Olympic bobsledding team). "Easy, it’s 'Talladega Nights'!" Williams said. For motivation, Williams turns to the inspiring (and fully trademarked) words of NASCAR legend Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell: "If you ain’t first, you’re last."

    NBC, Buena Vista Pictures

    Aly Raisman, gymnastics

    Chalk up another vote for "Miracle": "It’s really inspiring and the captain of the team is from my hometown in Massachusetts.” So, does the multiple medal winner watch before every competition? "No, I’ve just watched it before so I like it a lot," she told TODAY.com. "I think it's a good movie."

    Marlen Esparza, boxing

    "Remember the Titans," the fact-inspired 2000 drama starring Denzel Washington as a football coach struggling with racial tensions on his team, is "super motivational," the Texas-born boxer told TODAY.com. In fact, she's lost count of how many times she's watched it; she lets it play "every time it comes on."

    NBC, Paramount Pictures

    Hurdler Dawn Harper credits Samuel L. Jackson as "Coach Carter" as a model for perseverance.

    Dawn Harper, track & field

    The silver medalist in the women's 100m hurdles chooses "Coach Carter," the 2005 Samuel L. Jackson drama, based on the true story of a high school basketball coach who benched his undefeated team for their low academic grades, and motivated them to success in the classroom as well as on the court. "It's about the perseverance," Harper told TODAY.com.

    Dremiel Byers, wrestling

    The Newark, N.J.-born grappler's instant choice was "Vision Quest," a 1985 drama starring Matthew Modine as a high school wrestler searching for meaning in his life. "Come on, I'm a wrestler," he told TODAY.com. But then he thought for a moment and added: "Actually, this is hard for me. I'm stuck between 'Vision Quest' and 'Prefontaine' (the 1997 story of long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine, played by Jared Leto). "But I'm a wrestler, so I'd have to say 'Vision Quest.'"

    Courtesy of Producers Distribution

    Silver medalist Leo Manzano (right) was fascinated by a documentary about Brazilian Formula One racer Ayrton Senna (left).

    Leo Manzano, track & field

    Manzano was fast enough to win the U.S. silver in the men's 1500 meters, so it's natural that he chose a film about speed: "Senna," a critically acclaimed British documentary about Brazilian Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna. "I didn't know anything about F1," Manzano confessed. "Then (I) watched this movie and fell in love with it."

    Read more:

    What's on Olympians' lock screens?

    Athletes reveal their post-Olympic pig-out plans

    Very superstitious: Olympians woo lady luck with rituals

    Olympians flash their bling while going for gold

  • Usain Bolt wins Olympics 200 meters title, breaks Twitter record

    Eddie Keogh / Reuters

    Jamaica's Usain Bolt poses with his gold medal on the podium after winning the men's 200m event at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 9, 2012.

    When Usain Bolt won the 200 meters, the Twitter world went nuts — so much so that the Jamaican speedster generated another kind of Olympic record.

    "Record alert!" Twitter said in a tweet. "@usainbolt sets a new Olympic Games conversation record with over 80,000 TPM for his 200m victory."

    TPM is Twitterspeak for tweets per minute.

    Bolt, who became the only man with two Olympic titles in the 200, has never been shy about his skills.

    His Twitter profile says he is "The most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever seen."

    Now he has a Twitter record of sorts to add to his "living legend" contention.

    More Digital Life:

    TODAY's Natalie Morales takes a look at funny images of U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney's unimpressed face Photoshopped onto iconic images, such as the walk on the moon and the Wright Brothers' first flight.


  • Instead of gold, pin traders seek Olympic brass

    Sergei Grits / AP file

    Pin collectors chat next to Olympic Park in London, on July 25, 2012. Outside Westfield Mall, at the edge of the Olympic Park security zone, a dozen people set up shop to trade and sell pins from the 2012 games and Olympics past.


    By Catherine Treyz
    NBC News

    While athletes in London are set on winning Olympic gold, self-described “pinheads” are focused on collecting Olympic brass. Pin traders from across the globe have gathered in London -- not just to watch the international competition, but to find unique, sought-after pins.

    “Some people are fanatics,” said Don Bigsby, 72, of Schenectady, NY. Bigsby, a retired telephone engineer, is preside­nt and founder of the world’s largest Olympic pin and memorabilia club, the Olympin Collectors Club. “I’m well past that sort of thing.”

    Don Bigsby

    Complete with glass cases and informational captions, collector Don Bigsby has turned his house into an Olympic museum featuring pins, posters, and much more. This particular corner of his collection is designated to the Berlin 1936 and the London 1948 Games.

    Since 1980, Bigsby’s Olympic collection has grown from just pins to include programs, torches, tickets, medals and more. To accommodate all of this he has turned his house into a museum. In 1999, Bigsby spent $150,000 to build a two-floor, 1,700-square-foot addition to his 1,000-square-foot house to hold his memorabilia.  

    “[Because of pin collecting] I know more about the world than I ever learned in school," said Bigsby, who carries a book of flags with him to help him “chase pins” by national colors and symbols.

    At the Games, merchandise and memorabilia are in high demand. Sales at London 2012 shops, according to the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, have increased by 115 percent since the start of the Games. The Opening Ceremony pins have sold out.

    Although certain commercial pins are especially popular, true “pinheads” are not at the Games to buy or sell, but to trade. “Pin collectors, athletes, media people, etc. are really into pin trading, maybe more than ever before,” wrote Bigsby in an e-mail from London. “Every day, the ‘rules’ change for collectors. Where to trade, how many pins to wear ...

    Don Bigsby

    Hungary's London 2012 athletes pin looks almost identical to Hungary's Berlin 1936 athletes badge, which was made by the Hungarian Mint and is highly-coveted because of its quality and beauty.

    This year, one pin in high demand among niche collectors is Hungary’s athletes pin. Made by the Hungarian Mint, this year’s pins look almost identical to Hungary’s athletes’ pins of the past.

    When a trade is finished, however, returns aren’t allowed.

    “It’s a deal. Move on. Find somebody else to trade with,” said Bigsby said.

    Athletes join in the fun

    Earlier this year, tennis player and gold medalist Serena Williams recently told USA Today that she has been an avid pin collector since Sydney 2000.  Shooter and three-time gold medalist Kim Rhode of Team USA makes her own pins and gives them away on Twitter. She tweeted, “To win a pin I’m going to ask trivia type questions while I’m here @Olympics and the person who responds first with the correct answer wins.” So far, Rhode has given away three.

    Rhode is one of many pin traders who have shared their hobby online. The London Pins website, for example, is dedicated to organizing information about all of this year’s pins. On Twitter, users have expressed their surprise about how popular the hobby is and how surprised they are that they have, too, become addicted. “I didn’t think it would happen but I’ve become obsessed with collecting pin badges #gamesmaker,” one person tweeted. 

    Pins are usually made of metals like brass, copper, and tin. It's the sentimental value, not the monetary value, that keeps “pinheads” trading and inspires more traders each Olympiad.

    “Pins really have no monetary value,” said Navid Khonsari, whose 2007 documentary Pindemonium provides a lens into the Olympic subculture of pin collecting.  “Pins are really a vehicle for people to really interact with one another.”

    Pin trading: where it all began

    Khonsari said most of the American pin traders got their start at Lake Placid in 1980 or in Los Angeles in 1984. Although pins have been a part of the Olympic tradition since the first modern games in Athens in 1896, the Summer and Winter Olympics in the 1980s marked a turning point in the demand for Olympic collectibles with special venues emerging for the purpose of trading and selling commemorative goods. According to Coca-Cola, one of 10 worldwide Olympic sponsors, 17 million pins were traded at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.

    Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters file

    Pin collector Johnny Ioannides of Greece waits outside the Olympic Village in Stratford in east London July 26, 2012.

    Bigsby, who was one of the three recipients of the International Olympic Committee’s Juan Antonio Samaranch Medal for Olympic Collecting this past June, began trading and collecting pins after attending the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. It was the year of the US men’s ice hockey team’s underdog victory against the Soviet Union and Eric Heiden’s record-setting five gold medals in men’s speedskating.

    “How could I not get hooked?” Bigsby said. “I love amateur sports and there I was in Lake Placid in the middle of it.”

    'It's amazing how it just takes over the Games'

    According to Maxine Chapman, marketing director at Coca-Cola, it's an unofficial rule that if you’re wearing more than one or two pins, you’re a trader. “A pin from the Olympics is so highly coveted,” said Chapman, who manages Olympic showcasing for international sponsor Coca-Cola. “It’s amazing how it just takes over the Games.”

    Since the 1988 Games in Calgary, Coca-Cola has opened pin trading centers at the Olympic Games. Khonsari filmed many of his interviews for Pindemonium at the Coca-Cola Pin Trading Center in Torino in 2006. This year’s pin trading centers are at two locations: London’s Olympic Park and Hyde Park. “The response has been very, very good,” said Chapman.

    One feature of this year’s trading centers is a giant map of the world where people tack pins they receive, encouraging Olympic fans to trade with the world.

    In an e-mail update from the Games, Bigsby wrote, “My daughter Calyn and I traded pins with two North Koreans, then three Iranians and had a great time chatting and gesturing a conversation. Made me wonder why everyone can't get along.”

    More from NBCNews.com


  • Nike takes marketing gold with neon-yellow shoes

    Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

    Ashton Eaton, left, and Trey Hardee of the United States, wearing (or not wearing) their distinctive yellow Nike Volt shoes, celebrate their gold and silver medals in the men's decathlon Thursday.

    As the Olympics wind down, marketing experts are awarding a gold medal in ambush marketing to Nike, which scored with bold commercials, smart PR moves and its distinctive, ubiquitous neon-yellow Volt shoes.

    Nike, which always manages a high Olympic profile despite its non-sponsor status, outwitted big-money Olympic backers such as Visa, McDonald’s and adidas - which reportedly paid $155 million for its official London 2012 sponsorship - with its nervy campaign, according to marketing experts.

    “The shoes were one of the first things I noticed during the Games,” said Leslie Smolan, co-founder of Carbone Smolan Agency, a design and branding firm in New York. She just returned from London. “I thought Nike's approach was absolutely brilliant. Nike managed to integrate themselves into the games -- the best way to show your product, not just talk about it.”

    Indeed, London Games organizers considered legal action against Nike before dumping the idea, according to The Associated Press. The IOC, ever patrolling to block non-Olympic advertisers from crashing the lavish marketing party of official Games sponsors, banned athletes from tweeting about their personal sponsors. But the logo police couldn't thwart Nike-bedecked competitors from donning those incandescent kicks: Olympians can wear whatever shoes they feel offer them a crack at the podium. 

    “Nike cleverly leveraged the combination of their recognizable trade dress and logo to get Olympic-sized brand identification without an Olympic-sized budget,” said Adam Hanft, CEO of New York-based Hanft Projects, a communications and marketing consultancy. "It's exactly the kind of guerrilla product insertion that makes marketers smile and the (International Olympic Committee) nuts."

    Needless to say, Nike was unapologetic about its shoe campaign.

    "Over 400 athletes are wearing the Volt Nike footwear at the Games," said Nike spokesman Brian Strong. "The majority of those are in track and field but also in boxing and fencing."

    As of Friday 41 athletes had medaled wearing Volt shoes, including 43 percent of track and field medalists, Nike said.

    And the company didn't need its signature swoosh to strut its brand to the world. The Volt is scientifically designed to be a pupil-popping consumer magnet.  

    "Of all the colors of the rainbow, the human eye and visual system is most sensitive to the yellow/green zone," Strong said. "The power of this visual signal is capitalized on when the background is highly contrasting, which the London Olympic track is -- reddish.  The human eye has relatively low sensitivity to red vs. much higher sensitivity to Volt color."

    Cool hues aside, does Nike agree with the many advertising experts who believe the shoe was strategically picked by Nike to rev its "ambush marketing?" 

    Strong's direct response that question: "We’ll always look to provide our athletes with the best in design and innovation on the world’s biggest stages. Volt is a strong, dynamic color and it has certainly become a visible signature of ours during the summer of competition."

    Nike's promotion of the shoes skirts on the edge of Rule 40 of the Olympic charter, which "limits athletes competing in the Olympic Games from appearing in advertising during and shortly before the Olympic Games." The rule is intended to "prevent ambush marketing which might otherwise utilise athletes to create an association with the Games."

    But Rule 40 does not affect what athletes can wear, said Jennifer Escalas, associate professor in the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. 

    "It just says that if the equipment manufacturer is not an official sponsor, then the athletes cannot 'promote' the product outside of using the product during competition," she said. "The track and field athletes wearing the bright yellow Nike shoes cannot tweet about them or blog about them or post pictures of the shoes on Instagram."

    Early in the games, Nike scored a public relations coup after Egyptian athletes were discovered parading in counterfeit Nike warm-up outfits because they couldn't afford authentic gear. Rather than complain about the piracy, Nike offered free gear for the team.

    The winner of the decathlon is often referred to as "the greatest athlete on earth," competing in 10 different events. Gold and silver medal winners Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee talk about how it feels to come out of the grueling two days of competition on top.

    Nike also flirted with Rule 40 in its "Find Your Greatness" TV ad featuring rugby players, marathoners, cyclists, swimmers and wrestlers competing in London, Ohio; London, Norway; and East London, South Africa. There are no overt Olympic mentions and no images of London, England. 

    "The television commercial skirts very close to impinging on the connections in the minds of consumers between the official London sponsors and the positive thoughts and feelings consumers have about the Olympics,"  Escalas said. "I could see the official sponsors being justifiably upset about these ads."

    To which Nike's Strong responds: "The Nike 'Find Your Greatness' spots feature everyday athletes from multiple locations called London around the world, to illustrate that greatness can be found by anyone, anywhere. We think that is a powerful message at a time when the world is focused on London, UK." 

    And he sticks the landing. 

    "I love it," said Alex Campbell, co-founder Vibes, a Chicago mobile marketing and technology company, "because they weren't actually an Olympic sponsor -- but but they came off as one." 

    More money and business news:






  • Ryan Seacrest answers TODAY Facebook fans' questions


    Special correspondent Ryan Seacrest has taken over TODAY's Facebook page, revealing a behind-the-scenes look from London. Below are fans' questions he answered. 

    Floetta Sanders: What events have you enjoyed the most? And just a note: I think Willie nelson would make a cool judge on “American Idol.”
    Ryan: Without a doubt, Usain Bolt has been one of my fav stories here in London. His speed is incredible, and I love "The Bolt." It's an indelible image of this Olympics. And Willie is a legend!

    Amy Kraft Cieslak: I know Matt must secretly own a Snuggy. Let's see him wearing it!
    Ryan: It was pretty warm here in London the last two weeks, so no Snuggy sightings. But Matt was sporting some snazzy white bucks today, without socks! 

    Deb Lamb: What Olympic athlete has really impressed you in a huge way??
    Ryan: All of the Olympic athletes are so impressive -- that goes without saying. A few in particular: Gabby Douglas stands out given her age and accomplishments; Michael Phelps for his tenacity and contributions to the sport of swimming; and the women’s soccer team for their relentless pursuit of gold. 

    Monica McAfee Burnett: Hey Ryan! I hope you had a great time in London! Will you continue to be a special correspondent for TODAY in the future? You are doing a great job!!!
    Ryan: Thanks, Monica! I am having a great time hanging out with the TODAY gang. and, yes, my work as a special correspondent will continue after the Olympics. 

    Mary Moon: How can I get a job like yours?
    Ryan: Visit your local radio or TV station and figure out how to be an intern. There is no better way to learn the business than in a job where you do everything – and interns really do everything. It’s a lot of work, but hard work pays off.

    C Susan Shields: Great job! What is the most exciting sport did you enjoy in London?
    Ryan: I'm fascinated by synchronized swimming. These women are amazing athletes.

    Dolores Ozuna Cruz: Are you going to stay for the closing ceremony? Post pictures!
    Ryan: Yes! I've been asked to co-host the closing ceremony with Bob Costas and Al Michaels, two sportscasting ICONS. I'm humbled to join them for such a big night. Should be fun and I definitely will take pics. 

    Christina Koran Johnson: I just wanted to say you are doing a phenomenal job on TODAY! I am very impressed with your interview and journalism skills! Would love to see you on TODAY more!
    Ryan: Thanks for the kind words. 

    Tasahia Toland: What's in the jar [in the photo above]?
    Ryan: Just some mixed nuts. :) 

    Andrea Montalbano: What was the weirdest thing that happened to you while in London???
    Ryan: The broadcasting team from India thought I was a basketball player. Seriously

    Vanessa Sanchez McCullough: OK, Ryan! Take a pic of you and [Olympics executive producer] Jim Bell! My question is where do you find the time to do as much as you do? Especially during the "American Idol" season. You seem to juggle 100 different projects without getting burned out. What is your secret, Seacrest?
    Ryan: Bell is pretty hard to pin down at the broadcast center, but I will try to grab a shot. And sure my schedule can be tough, but I have a lot of terrific people on my team who help make it all doable. I also believe in having a little fun too -- that makes the hard work worth it. 

    Cindy Rowe Zelbst: No questions. I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed you on the Olympics, and I can't wait for the closing ceremony. TODAY needs you as a contributor more often!!!
    Ryan: That's so nice. Thanks. 

    Lisa Sharrai O'Neil: Who pays for the Olympics? Where does the money come from to pay the winners? Who makes the medals?
    Ryan: NBC and other networks around the world pay to broadcast the Olympics, so a lot of the money comes from there. Other money comes from the host country and sponsors like Coca-Cola. For the London Games, the medals were made in Pontyclun, Wales, by a company called The Royal Mint. More than 800 workers made over 4,700 medals! 

    Jennifer Fisher Harris: While waiting for their Olympic events, how much time do the athletes spend training and conditioning without wearing themselves out for the games? And what activities or accommodations do they have available within the Olympic Village?
    Ryan; Athletes are given a lot of privacy at the Olympic Village so they can be comfortable and relaxed prior to competition. There is limited media access so they won't be bothered or distracted. That said, a lot of the athletes told me the food is pretty good.

    More on TODAY.com: 
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    Seacrest: If Kim Kardashian was an Olympian, she'd play...
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