Mazda China, Michael Phelps Ink Multi-Million Dollar Sponsorship Deal

Mazda is giving Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps the biggest sponsorship deal in Chinese history for the new Mazda6. But neither Mazda nor Phelps is Chinese. What gives?

Mazda is currently struggling in the Chinese market, selling only 105,000 cars there during the first 10 months of 2008. That number puts it well behind on plans to sell at least 300,000 cars a year in China by 2010. Their solution? Bring in Phelps.

The swimmer won eight gold medals in last summer’s Beijing Games, rocketing him to instant celebrity not just in his native country, but in China too. He’ll now endorse the Mazda6 in a series of print and TV ads and public appearances. The deal is worth in excess of $1 million; making Phelps the most highly paid Western celebrity in Chinese History. [via NY Daily News]

Photography credit: Pictlux