LONDON: The UK's sportsmen and women celebrated many triumphs at last year's Olympic Games in Beijing, but their victories brought with it difficulties in relation to brand sponsorship.
'There was too much success from Team GB in Beijing, so lots of gold-medal athletes were unable to stand out,' says Clifford Bloxham, vice-president of athletes and personalities at sponsorship agency Octagon.
However, the home advantage means many of those who step onto the podium in London in 2012 will be adding signifi-cant value to their sponsors long after the Games' closing ceremony. The question remains as to which emerging athletes brands should choose to work with.
In 2007, Marketing ran a feature: 'Sponsor the kids, inherit the star'. Since then, two of the teenagers profiled - tennis player Laura Robson and footballer Daniel Sturridge - have gone on to bigger and better things. Here then is our selection of the top 12 rising stars for London 2012.
Laura Robson (tennis)
In 2007 Marketing said: At the tender age of 13, Robson has already attracted two global sponsorship deals, an indication that big things are expected of her. Success at Wimbledon - or even the hope of success - would make her a dream ticket, capable of emulating deals such as Andy Mur-ray's £1m-a-year tie-up with Fred Perry. Top players typically earn more than £7.5m a year in total, according to Forbes.
Today: Robson has won Junior Wimbledon, and in January,
was runner-up at the Junior Australian Open. She has also followed in the footsteps of Tim Henman and Murray, agreeing a sponsorship deal with drinks brand Robinsons. Now aged 15, Robson has turned professional, but has a rival for the position of Britain's top junior in 17-year-old girls' US Open title holder Heat-her Watson.
Daniel Sturridge (football)
In 2007 Marketing said: Sturridge is unlikely to match David Beckham's immense sponsor-ship power, but there is a useful guide to his prospects in the form of top England players such as Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen. They earn more than £2m a year from endorsements, according to exclusive research carried out for Marketing prior to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Today: Since 2007 Sturridge has moved up from the Manchester City Academy to join Chelsea FC's first team. The striker scored on his Chelsea debut in a pre-season friendly against Seattle Sounders FC last July. Sturridge, now 20, is a regular member of the England under-21 squad and is a near certainty to play for Team GB at the Olympics under-23 tournament.
Luol Deng and Ben Gordon (basketball)
Luol Deng, 24, and Ben Gordon, 26, are superstars in the US. However, but for the fact they stand 6ft 9in and 6ft 3in tall respec-tively, the pair could easily walk the streets of London unnoticed. Team GB has little chance of a basketball medal in 2012, but in Deng, of the Chica-go Bulls, and Gordon, of the Detroit Pistons, it has two highly marketable assets.
Deng's UK profile received a boost when the Chicago Bulls took on the Utah Jazz in an exhibition game at London's O2 Arena last month, and the NBA will be missing a trick if it does not promote both players ahead of the 2012 Games.
'Luol Deng would be a great prospect for a brand,' says Peter Harris, chief executive of iris sponsorship. 'Basketball is a growing sport in the UK and the British Basketball Association has just announced the launch of a national basketball league.' Harris also suggests that the sport's 'urban feel' will be a 'good fit' for certain brands. However, they will need deep pockets - Deng is on a six-year player's contract worth £40m, and Gordon is on a similar deal.
Jessica Ennis (heptathlon)
It was hard not to feel a little sorry for Jessica Ennis this summer. In Berlin, her destruction of the field to claim the world heptathlon crown should have earned her plenty of coverage. Unfortunately for her, that evening the planet's biggest sports star, Usain Bolt, smashed his own men's 100m world record and stole all the headlines. Nonetheless, the 23-year-old from Sheffield remains the clear favourite to win gold in London. In recent years, successful female athletes have been receiving more attention from sponsors. Dame Kelly Holmes has appeared as a brand ambassador for numerous brands, including Aviva, and Reebok, while marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe can count Nike and Tesco among her supporters.
Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee (triathlon)
Training partners and sibling rivals Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee have this year become, respectively, ITU World Champion and silver medallist in the ITU World Junior Triathlon. The brothers, aged 21 and 19, have already secured a deal with energy drink brand Gatorade.
'Gatorade has used them both in advert-ising, and we use them with the media for interviews. We also work with their coaches to develop our consumer coaching videos,' says Ryan Bowd, head of sponsorship agency SBI Active. 'We are always speaking to coaches to find the next big stars. We discovered Alistair and Jonathan before the world switched on to them.'
Triathlon is the UK's fastest-growing sport in terms of participation, with brands such as Maz-da benefiting from years of investment. The London Tria-thlon is now the biggest in the world, involving more than 13,000 competitors. Britain also has the two best junior women triathletes in the world - Hollie Avil and Jodie Stimpson.
Oliver Golding (tennis)
Andy Murray may offer Britain's best hope for a tennis gold at London 2012, but Oliver Golding represents a good bet for brands seeking a rising star. Where Murray lacks charisma, the 16-year-old has real presence, having spent his life on stage and in front of the camera. In 2005, he starred alongside Chris-topher Lee in British film The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby. Golding has also proved his worth on the court, and in Sep-tember became the youngest player to be-come British Junior number one. Tennis stars have little trouble securing sponsorship but brands that support fledgling players are often rewarded with loyalty when their careers take off. Andy Murray has been with Fred Perry since 2003, while RBS took him on when he was just 14.
Liam Tancock (swimming)
After finishing sixth in the 100m backstro-ke at the 2008 games in Beijing, Tancock won gold in the 50m backstroke at the World Championships in Rome this year. Unfortunately for the swimmer, his prefer-red distance is not an Olympic event and he must improve his stamina to have any hope of winning gold in London. However, at the age of 24, and with more than two years to adapt, Tancock has a great opportunity. Swimming is not the highest-profile sport, unless your name happens to be Michael Phelps, but the example of double-gold medal-list Rebecca Adlington should offer Tan-cock some hope. Since Beijing, she has signed a deal to front British Gas' £15m sponsorship of British swimming.
Liz Heald (diving)
It has long been assumed that 15-year-old Tom Daley will win the men's 10m diving in London. The boy wonder was big news in China and gave great exposure to sponsor B&Q simply by name-checking the retailer in media interviews. With all eyes on the board in 2012, another bet for glory, however, is 17-year-old Liz Heald. The Sheffield-born diver is a former gymnast and her talent has earned her recognition as one of Scottish Widows' four 'Golden Hopefuls' for 2012.
Daniel Keatings (gymnastics)
There were several successes for British gymnasts in Beijing, most notably Beth Tweddle, 24, and Louis Smith, 20. However, last month it was Smith's club mate Daniel Keatings who took the all-around silver medal at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in London, becoming the first British gymnast to make the podium in this event. The 19-year-old from Hunt-ingdon also took four golds at the 2008 Junior European Championships, claiming the title of junior all-around champion.
Mark Cavendish (cycling)
While Chris Hoy et al dominated the velo-drome in Beijing, one member of the team returned home without a medal - Mark Cavendish. Ironically, the 24-year-old may be Britain's most-talented cyclist; he certain-ly has a higher profile than any of his team mates among fans. This year, Caven-dish took his tally of Tour de France stage wins to nine, more than any other British cyclist in history. It is a good time to be at the top of the cycling scene with interest in the sport at an all-time high. Chris Hoy has become the poster boy of Brit-ish cycling, sec-uring deals with Highland Spring and Kellogg among others. Caven-dish's brash attitude polarises the cycling commun-ity, but he would be a perfect fit for a brand looking for a bit of edge.