Crowdfunding Website Helps Olympians Achieve Their Dream

Many athletes go into debt funding their Olympic dreams, and the vast majority will never earn enough from sponsorships or endorsement deals to cover their expenses. Bill Kerig started a crowd-funding site — RallyMe — to help those athletes. He tells Renee Montagne about the problem and the personal stories of some Sochi hopefuls.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Achieving the Olympic dream is not just about hard work, it's about money. It costs a lot. Although a few elite athletes earned millions in endorsements, most competitors must pay their own way. Bill Kerig is a documentary filmmaker. Recently he started RallyMe, a crowd-funding site to help athletes raise the money they need to have a shot at the Winter Games. We reached him at Salt Lake City.

Welcome.

BILL KERIG: Well, thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: First, give us a sense. What does it cost to get to the Olympics?

KERIG: The average cost per athlete in the Winter Olympics, they will have spent 85 to $250,000 per year for most of these athletes for a decade.

MONTAGNE: Give us an example. What might one have to shell out a lot of money on?

KERIG: Travel, you're looking at 150 to 200 travel days per year for every one of these athletes. Then, when you come to equipment, you know, you're looking at speed skates: $1900 for the boots, $650 for the blade. You need three or four pair. If you're lucky enough maybe you have a sponsor that picks up the cost of your equipment. But even if all of these expenses are covered, now you've got a really, really taxing full-time job that doesn't pay you anything.

MONTAGNE: You can't have a great career, a high-paying career while you're devoting more or less all of your time to training. So a lot of these athletes do what?

KERIG: One of the elite ski jumpers who is going to the Olympics is a hostess at a restaurant. Lots of other athletes work at Home Depot. And these are $10 hour part-time jobs.

MONTAGNE: Well, when it came to this crowd-funding site, how did you think this up?

KERIG: About four years ago, I was making a film and it was about women ski jumpers and their fight for gender equality in the Winter Olympics. And here we have a world champion standing at a farmers market with a salad bowl on the table, saying, hey, have you heard about women ski jumping - anything you can give would really help. And I had crowdfunded part of the funding for my film. And I'm going, wait a minute, why aren't you using the Internet?

So fast-forward one year, we launch RallyMe. Lindsey Van is the first athlete we had on there, she set out to raise $13,000 and she raised almost $21,000. She was able to kick out her three roommates, quit her part-time job and focus full-time on Sochi. And she's going to the Sochi Olympic Games.

MONTAGNE: Now, when you're talking about Lindsey Van, you are not talking about the other ski champion Lindsey Vonn. Right, let's clarify.

KERIG: The other Lindsey - yeah, the comparison is really great because Lindsey Vonn and Lindsey Van are both world champions. Lindsey Vonn is an alpine ski racer. Lindsey Van is a ski jumper. They're both pioneers in their sport. Lindsey Vonn makes many millions of dollars a year. Lindsey Van works for $10 an hour as an assistant physical therapist at a clinic in Park City, Utah.

MONTAGNE: What is in it for people out there who send in their money? Obviously it's not a direct kind of investment.

KERIG: What the boosters are really getting is they're buying the story. Yeah, maybe you get a hat, maybe you get a signed picture, a Facebook shout-out, but really what you're buying is a story. I can look at that athlete in Sochi and say, I was a part of that - I helped her get there. For me, it's so worth it.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

KERIG: Well, thank you. This has been excellent.

MONTAGNE: Bill Kerig is the founder of RallyMe. That's a crowd-funding site for athletes including those headed to the Winter Olympic Games.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.