Lee Sang-hwa ‘favorite of advertisers’

February 18, 2014
Lee Sang-hwa successfully defended her Olympic title. (Yonhap)

Lee Sang-hwa has been the star of Sochi Olympics for Korea so far. (Yonhap)

By Kim Rahn

Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa has become much sought after in the advertising sector after winning her gold medal in the women’s speed skating 500-meter event at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

With an image that is both strong and feminine, companies in various types of industries are eager to have the 25-year-old as their ad model with her superb abilities and a new Olympic record.

Speed skater Lee Sang-hwa shows off her feminine side in Esquire magazine photo shoot. (Esquire magazine-Yonhap)

Speed skater Lee Sang-hwa shows off her feminine side in Esquire magazine photo shoot. (Esquire magazine-Yonhap)

People in the advertising market said Friday that companies will have to pay about 400-500 million won per one-year contract, almost double the payment she used to receive before the Sochi Olympics.

She is now a model for Kia Motors and KB Financial Group, and the market estimates that they paid 200-300 million won to her to sign up for one-year contracts, although the sponsors have not made the exact amounts paid public.

So far, Lee has appeared in ads which focused on her strong and reliable image as an athlete, such as the ads for the carmaker and the financial firm.

However, ad market watchers expect companies in various industries to woo her for her feminine ― and even sexy ― image recently added to by her appearance in fashion magazine photographs.

“She has a unique charm. She may be suitable for ads for outdoor equipments, clothes, cosmetics and food,” an ad company official said.

Some say she may fill the vacancy of figure skater Kim Yu-na who will retire after this Sochi Games and may not appear in many advertisements from now on.

Kim’s ad coverage ranges from running shoes, financial firm, cosmetics and jewelry to air conditioners, beer and coffee.

Kia Motors and KB Financial Group, which have sponsored Lee, are already enjoying her popularity.

Kia began sponsoring her in 2005 when she was a high school student. It has paid training fees for not only Lee but also other promising speed skaters.

The firm gave her a Soul compact car when she won a gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and offered a K5 hybrid last year to be used for her training.

KB’s sponsorship started this year. The company has supported winter sports athletes for long, including figure skaters Kim Yu-na, Kim Hae-jin and Park So-youn; short-track speed skater Shim Suk-hee; and the women’s curling national team.

However, Kia and KB cannot place ads with Lee or have their logos put on her uniform, as they are not official sponsors of the Olympics and only official sponsors can have ads with the participating athletes during the Olympic period according to the rules of the International Olympic Committee.