To get a sense of how much money Michael Phelps is likely to make in the next 10 years, imagine each of those eight medals around his neck as 1,000 pounds of solid gold.
That's roughly equivalent to the $100 million payday anticipated to come to the star swimmer during his lifetime, according to his agent and sports marketing experts.
With his stunning achievement in breaking Marc Spitz's 36-year-old record for most gold medals in a single Olympics and his ubiquity on TV, radio and the Internet, Phelps is expected to bank much more than previous Olympic champs such as "America's Sweetheart" Mary Lou Retton, decathlete Bruce Jenner and track star Carl Lewis.
But he's not going to hit the stratosphere of sports marketing occupied by Tiger Woods, whose career earnings are expected to hit the $1 billion mark in 2010, or Michael Jordan, who reportedly has made more than $500 million in his career.
Though most viewers won't see him in action again until the 2012 Olympics in London, his phenomenal success should translate into major dollars in the intervening years, says Doug Shabelman, president of Burns Entertainment.
"He will be a force to reckon with on the endorsement front because he transcends his sport," he told ABCNews.com. "You don't need to watch swimming to know who Michael Phelps is."
Though he's finished swimming laps in competition, Phelps will spend the rest of his time in Beijing making appearances for sponsors like Omega watches, Hilton Hotels and Visa. And Peter Carlisle, his agent, says that he's been busy fielding offers -- from book and movie deals to dog-food makers keen to take advantage of Phelps' love for his British bulldog, Herman.
And his current sponsors have been reaping the benefits of his success, which should translate into more lucrative deals in the future. Speedo says that it sold out of tens of thousands of $24.99 Phelps jerseys, even though swimmers don't even wear shirts.
Other marketers are already jumping to take advantage of Phelps' popularity, with Match.com announcing a recent survey of its members in which 81 percent picked Phelps to be on their "dream team." Even Phelps' mother has become a hot commodity, with Johnson's issuing a press release Saturday naming Debbie Phelps its "Baby Mom of the Olympic Games."
Shabelman sees Phelps easily exceeding the success of Retton, because there are so many more branding opportunities available to him in the globalized world of media and advertising, from guest appearances on "American Idol" to ads on Web-based platforms.
Nevertheless, Retton's long-term success bodes well for Phelps.
It's been almost 25 years since she bounded her way into the hearts and minds of America at the 1984 Olympics but Retton is earning more now through speeches and endorsement deals than at any time in her career, says Michael Suttle, her manager.
She makes about 10 to 14 corporate speeches a year, each one netting her $25,000, and has endorsement deals with Tyson Foods, Biomed orthopedic manufacturer and GNC nutrition stores, Suttle says.
"She was able to connect early on with Madison Avenue and everyone else in marketing and PR out there and her income is still very significant," he said.