It’s not Lolo Jones’ fault that the media is ignoring 2012 Olympic 100 meter hurdle medalists Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells. Jones’ became a media star after the 2008 Olympic Games when she – after leading most of the race – hit the second to last hurdle and fell out of medal contention in devastating fashion. After Jones’ stumble, Harper ran across the line for the gold medal in Beijing.
Even though she left Beijing without a medal, over the past four years, the media focus on Jones has been intense. She’s a social media star with over 277 thousand followers on Twitter and 143 thousand likes on her Facebook fan page. Jones has been savvy about using social media over the past 4 years to raise her public profile, land magazine covers, and gain lucrative endorsement deals. Some in the mainstream media have harshly criticized Jones for being all image, but what Jones’ success shows is that it isn’t always about winning a medal when it comes to the media spotlight.
Christina M. Rice, brand strategist and CEO/Founder of LuxeLife Media, Inc. told EBONY, “What Lolo Jones has right now, that every other highly successful athlete, entertainer, etc has is simply marketing appeal thru the genuine delivery of her story first and foremost. Everyone loves a "pulled up by your bootstraps" story and she constantly gives that to them without seemingly playing the victim. In this day and age, media is not just drawn to any one person because they've won a Grammy, Super Bowl ring or Olympic medal, they are drawn to the story, whether positive or negative.”
Jones has been very open about her struggles growing up in Iowa in a family that was once homeless and at one time living in the basement of a Salvation Army. She speaks openly about being a Christian and about her plans to remain a virgin until she is married, the latter point being a hot topic on social media and in interviews. Her ability to be candid has kept people talking.
When asked about her lack of media coverage in favor of Jones, Harper said she had hurt feelings and that she has a story to tell as well about a tough upbringing and overcoming injuries prior to the Olympics. While there is a very valid argument to be made about colorism – a preference for Jones because of her lighter complexion – influencing the amount of media coverage Harper may or may not get, she should also take this opportunity while Americans are focused on the Olympics to tell her own story so that people can connect. There are hundreds of Olympians representing the United States and Lolo Jones is a household name because Americans know a lot about her story beyond what she does for 12 seconds on the track.
“With Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, they need to figure out what their "story" is and how to effectively communicate it. It is certainly not bashing a teammate during one of the most patriotic events in the world. They also need to decide whether they are champions or victims, you can't be both. Watching their [NBC] interview with Michelle Beadle, it reminded me of the bullies in school picking on the popular girl and frankly that is hardly appealing to brands, especially those that have a wholesome family image.”
Brands and the media alike will shine the light on anyone if they feel it promotes their product or increases their ability to make advertising dollars. Jones should not be criticized for successfully playing the media game.
“What people don't realize is that Lolo's story started four years at Beijing with that devastating loss and she continued to gain media interest, whether thru a very carefully crafted marketing strategy or just allowing the general public and media inside her life. We can't deny she is a beautiful girl but that is not her only appeal, she has heart and it's evident in everything she does. That's why she is a media darling and will continue to be until the next Olympics,” says Rice.