“In Europe, skiing is literally the number one sport. I mean, we’re prime time on every channel over there. And over here, people don’t even know that I’m racing when it’s not an Olympic year.”
Gender gap still an ongoing challenge
Unlike American professional sports, in which contract details are publicized, Vonn says that ski racing contracts are confidential. Vonn would like to fight that pay structure, but in the meantime, she believes that if more women ski racers can gain recognition through their athletic success, it could give them a bigger platform to fight for pay equity.
In the US, that usually means gold medals.
“In Europe, skiing is literally the number one sport,” Vonn says. “I mean, we’re prime time on every channel over there. And over here, people don’t even know that I’m racing when it’s not a year with the Olympics.”
Learn from your mistakes
Although Vonn feels comfortable with her financial decisions, if she could advise others, she says—without elaborating—that she wouldn’t have married at 22. She also works to spend and save wisely, despite the occasional splurge, and maintains good relationships with her sponsors.
In the ski-racing world, however, Vonn has more than made her long-term mark. She’s second all-time in women’s World Cup competition behind Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 World Cup races.
Building a brand helps
Vonn has managed to break through that barrier to become one of America’s most recognizable athletes. She followed Street’s example and her father’s advice and established relationships with notable brands such as Under Armour, Red Bull and Rolex, when she began achieving career success.
“I look at companies that fit my personality and I want to have long-term relationships with them,” she says. “For me, personally, Rolex was the most gratifying sponsor to have. I wasn’t necessarily getting paid a lot, but the name represented something so much more. With Under Armour, I’m the longest standing athlete, currently, and it’s been like 11 years now.”