Date: May 2005 - 2006 Olympics (?)

Michelle is one of the "Visa Gold Medal Athletes", nine Olympic and two Paralympic athletes, who will represent Visa for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Visa unveiled this roster of athletes at the Visa Gold Medal Athlete Summit in New York on May 26, 2005.

While in New York for the Visa Gold Medal Athlete Summit, the athletes saw the Broadway show "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." Unannounced, nine of the athletes were on the Today show that Thursday morning, including Michelle. While on the Today show, Michelle confirmed that she is going for the Olympics! She said, "I said after the 2002 Olympics I was going to play it by ear, go with the flow, and it worked for me. After spending some time with these athletes and coming here to New York, I said, 'This will be a great experience, try it one more time.' "

Joining Michelle on the "Visa Gold Medal Athlete" team are Olympic hopefuls Bode Miller (alpine skier), Travis Cabral (freestyle moguls skier), Cammi Granato (ice hockey), Derek Parra (speed skater), Lindsey Jacobellis and Seth Wescott (snowboarders), Emily Cook (freestyle aerialist), Jill Bakken (bobsledder) and Paralympic Games participants Laurie Stephens (disabled alpine) and Manuel Guerra (sledge hockey.)

The athletes were chosen because of their character and potential star-power, Visa USA Senior VP Michael Lynch said. "We chose these athletes because they are high-character individuals that we're proud to be associated with. It's not as much about their gold medal chances as it is athletes who are doing the best they can to fulfill their dreams, which our brand marketing platform is based on." Lynch also said that McDonald's, which recently began accepting credit cards at its restaurants nationwide and is also an Olympic sponsor, may work with Visa for cross promotions leading up to Torino.

The CMO at Visa USA, Susanne Lyons, said, "Michelle Kwan, Bode Miller and Derek Parra already are household names to some degree, and that hasn't always been the case with the Winter Olympics. Everyone likes the Olympics in concept. But the thing that really wins consumers' hearts and minds is when they begin to connect with an individual athlete in full form, suffering their losses and celebrating their victories."

Visa is planning several Olympic-oriented TV spots, with two featuring athletes. According to, Michelle and Bode Miller likely will take the lead roles. Both will be prominently featured in the Visa sweepstakes, in which card users can win a trip to the Olympics. Member banks will issue credit cards with likenesses of various athletes on the Visa team, and will feature them in promotions, statement inserts and other collateral material. So, it looks like Michelle will be featured in print and TV ads for Visa, as well as possibly on a credit card!

To recognize the 100-day countdown to the 2006 Olympics, Visa kicked off a fundraising campaign that will raise at least $1 million to support the journey of future American Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls. Through the "Visa Dollar for the Dream" program, for every dollar donated, consumers will receive a commemorative pin when they give at Visa's site. Visa will raise a minimum of $1 million and will also match consumer donations up to $2 million. The minimum donation is $1.00 and there is no maximum. Everyone who makes a donation of a dollar will receive a limited-edition, commemorative pin designed by Visa with input from 15 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team hopefuls, including Michelle. You may have noticed on the main page of this site (as well as further down this page), there is a banner that will take you directly to Visa's site to donate.

Michelle will appear in a new commercial for Visa during the Olympics! On February 7, Visa announced the launch of its first new campaign in 20 years, "Life Takes Visa."

The new campaign employs the theme of empowerment, and reflects Visa's evolution from a top credit card company to the leader in electronic payments, combining worldwide acceptance with a full suite of products that empower cardholders to do what they need to do, want to do and never thought possible.

The campaign debuts on February 10 during NBC's broadcast of the Olympics. The initial 60-second, 30-second and 15-second brand spots will lay the foundation for the campaign, celebrating active participation in life and highlighting both expected and unexpected demonstrations of what it takes to experience life to the fullest, from confidence to determination to tradition to joy.

Beginning February 13, six Olympic-themed television ads will be introduced during broadcast coverage of the Games. Featuring actual competition and training footage of Visa Gold Medal Athletes Emily Cook, Michelle Kwan, Bode Miller and Johnny Spillane, the ads pay tribute to the courage and dedication it takes to compete on a worldwide stage. The 15-second spot "Poetry" shows Michelle Kwan, the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history, completing a near-perfect program.

Update! After Michelle withdrew from the Olympics, Visa said it still planned to air their two commercials with Michelle. One is the Poetry ad, and the other includes Michelle in a montage of athletes. Visa's marketing chief, Susanne Lyons, said after a brief discussion following Michelle's withdrawal, Visa executives opted not to substitute other ads. Lyons says. "She embodies the Olympic spirit, even off the ice...Maybe people will look at it with a little bittersweet emotion, but they will enjoy it because it’s a tribute to a beautiful skater."


Visa USA Pledges to Raise at Least $1 Million for America's Olympic Athletes
Visa Gold Medal Athletes to be Introduced May 26 in New York

The Game: Winter Games In Visa's Cards
Visa Outlines Activation for 2006 Winter Games
Visa Launches ''Dollar for the Dream'' U.S. Olympic Team Fundraising Campaign

So You Want To Be an Olympic Sponsor?
Visa Launches ``Life Takes Visa(R),'' First New Brand Campaign in Two Decades
Visa to roll out new ad slogan
To Make the Card Special, Try the Warm and Familiar
Skating With Celebrities: Kwan Most Marketable Olympian
For the Olympics, Commercials for Screens of All Sizes
Visa putting new life in advertising theme
Visa To Unveil New Tagline at Olympics
Marketing Gold
Advertisers reevaluate planned Kwan ads

Kwan still could take gold with sponsors


Screencap from Poetry commercial
Screencaps from Today show with the other Visa Olympians on May 26, 2005:

Michelle being interviewed
Michelle nodding her head and saying "Yes" to going for the Olympics
All 9 Visa Olympians, along with Katie and Matt


Visa Commercial - Poetry / Download directly
Michelle appearing with other Visa Olympians on the Today show on May 26, 2005 (video made by me)

Last updated February 17, 2006

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Photo Sarah Hoffman