So who's going to cash in on their Olympic experience? Let's take a look at a handful of U.S. athletes who have landed some exposure in Vancouver.
Apollo Ohno - He's won a silver and bronze in Vancouver, bringing is total career medal count to seven. That makes him the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete ever. That should mean something to companies, and Ohno has probably solidified himself as that rare Olympian who can continue to get endorsement dollars even long after he retires. But aside from getting that record total, I'm not sure how much he's really boosted his stock above where it was before. He was probably already the most recognizable U.S. winter athlete before these games, having appeared in numerous commercials and winning ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" competition. For Ohno, these games may not necessarily expand his marketability as much as extend its length.
Lindsey Vonn- She's come to Vancouver and performed superbly, winning the downhill and earning a bronze in the Super-G. She was also in position to win the super combined before clipping a gate. Some will say she needs to win multiple golds, but savvy skiing fans know that winning any given race is something of a crapshoot. Besides, she has been fighting a painful shin injury. Vonn is attractive, well-spoken and generally uncontroversial, and should be able to build on the marketing profile she built prior to these games.
Julia Mancuso - Her Olympic run has been almost as good a story as Vonn, coming back from several years of sub-par results to earn two silver medals so far in these games. And the best part is that she seems genuinely and refreshingly excited about the whole thing. She's cute as heck and should get a nice bump in endorsements. I'd put her right up there with Picabo Street as one of the most likable and marketable winter Olympians.
Bode Miller - He's won three medals--one of each kind--and is now the most accomplished men's U.S. downhiller in history. He's now recognizable based on his skiing success, not just past failures and controversies. But Miller still has a strange surliness and aloofness that doesn't make him an ideal endorser. Moreover, he doesn't seem to care all that much about how he's perceived on Madison Avenue.
Shani Davis - Another gold-silver showing in speedskating for the kid from Chicago, and this time the buzz was all about his skating and not his feud with teammate Chad Hedrick. Davis may get a slight bump here, but speedskating is not one of the sports that gets a ton of attention during non-Olympic years. (He's supposedly HUGE in the Netherlands, though, so maybe he can land a Dutch deal or two.) One thing working against Davis is a lingering perception that he's selfish. And his ongoing refusal to train or be involved with U.S. Speedskating is harmful to his marketability.
Shaun White - He's the best snowboarder in the world, and there's no one else even close. He's likable and has a distinctive look and participates in a sport that doesn't disappear in the four years between Olympics. He's already shown that he can leverage Olympic success into marketing dollars and now the back-to-back gold medal winner has a chance to make more money in endorsements than any winter Olympian in history.
Lindsey Jacobellis - It was another disappointing Olympics for Lindsey. She came to Vancouver facing a barrage of questions about her last-second showboating that cost her the snowboard cross gold in Turin. But then she failed to redeem herself when she wiped out in the semifinals this time around. The good news is that she is still viewed as one of the best X-Games athletes, and will not disappear from public view. But her failure to medal in Vancouver could prevent her from landing a more broad range of endorsement opportunities.
John Shuster - The skip for the U.S. men's curling team has generated a kind of cult following online. Granted, it's because he has shown an amazing penchant for performing poorly in the clutch (the word "shuster" is now a verb synonymous with failure) but sometimes it's possible to turn lemons into lemonade. If Shuster is aware of his poor showing at the games and can laugh about it, he might be able to score an endorsement or two. Based on his television interviews, he doesn't come across as the smoothest guy in the world. But he has a certainly everyman shlubbiness that some companies might find attractive. The U.S. men's curling team overall is an interesting bunch of guys, in that they live together in a small apartment with bunk beds and somehow manage to remain close friends.