A Speedo Model At Age 91

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Jurgen Schmidt
SpeedoUSA Jurgen Schmidt

Most swimsuit models pass their expiration date around the time they reach voting age, but at 91, Jurgen Schmidt is just getting started.

A retired executive and a lifelong swimmer, Schmidt is one of the featured athletes in a new commercial for Speedo, the swimwear maker.

The maker of teeny, tiny swimwear most often seen on Olympic champions chose Schmidt and several other older swimmers to feature in its new advertising campaign. A 58-year-old body-surfer and a 63-year-old channel swimmer also make appearances in the video series, called "Fueled by Water."

But they are mere tadpoles next to Schmidt, who still swims a mile almost every day near his home in Huntington Beach, California. He hits the pool at 5 a.m. to avoid slower-moving swimmers, whom he terms "noodle floaters."

He also enters swim competitions regularly. His team recently blew away the freestyle speed record in the senior category, shaving nearly a minute off the previous time.

His motto is sure to inspire a would-be swimmer at any age: "Don't be afraid to get in the water."

Schmidt has been wearing Speedos for about 40 years. And that, the company says, is the point. "Every four years, you see us at the Olympics with tons of medals," Speedo North America President Jim Gerson told USAToday.com. "But Speedo is a rounder brand than that."

Schmidt is out in front in more ways than one. Demand is growing for older role models, if not necessarily swimsuit models.

American marketers are waking up to the fact that half of all American consumer dollars are spent by members of the baby boom generation and their elders, according to research conducted by the Nielsen company for creative services company BoomAger. People born before 1965 add up to the single largest consumer segment in the U.S., spending $7 billion a year on Internet purchases alone.

Yet only about five percent of advertising dollars is spent on marketing designed explicitly to reach that older market. Much of that advertising continues to follow the "I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up" tradition.

Marketers are beginning to grasp that this traditional approach may actually be repellent to the audience it targets. Older consumers are healthier, more active and more involved than their counterparts in earlier generations. And, given their increased life expectancy, they're not going anywhere soon.

Forbes points to AARP as a role model for modern marketers. The organization boasts a million "likes" on Facebook.

But for brands like Speedo, it's all about reaching the widest possible market. After all, there's only one Michael Phelps.
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