By Sabine Sunderland
In his home country, Belgium, 'Tornado Tom' is becoming an icon and a sex symbol in record-time. "During a three week Tour I don't think sex for one moment," Boonen was quoted saying in Belgian weekly Humo. "You are tired and tense, and your body is f***ed after every stage. But that changes as soon as Paris comes into sight. I get so horny!," Boonen apparently continued. The boy's definitely got the X-factor and his cheeky remarks are well received by a growing female fanclub.
According to Philiep Caryn, head of sponsoring at Quick.Step, the team really has the goose laying the golden eggs in their den. "Tom is smarter than Beckham," he told Belgian Newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. "He's actually got something meaningful to say, and that is a characteristic which makes him especially popular with women. It's difficult to put the publicity generated by those two consecutive wins in figures. But, if you see Tom standing there on the podium, completely fitted out in green, then you know that you're on the right track."
Allain Schamp, Belgian publicity guru agreed. "Tom could sell anything: chewing gum, clothing, soft drinks, you name it. Boonen's publicity value is at least one million euros. If he keeps performing another two to three years in this way he'll easily reach the five million euro mark on the publicity market - very interesting for big companies."
Le Coq Sportif has understood just that. The producer of sports clothing is working intensively with Boonen. "Tom's T-shirt line, presented just before the Tour is selling really well," Peter Linskens confirmed. "In some of our points of sale the stock is diminishing quickly; the T-shirts are getting scarce actually. But that was our intention: the brand "Boonen" has to retain its exclusive feel."
Tom's fanclub, housed in tavern 'Wembley' on the Belgian Coast in Middelkerke, knows how to make the best of Tom's success. They have already brought a bottle of champagne on the market last year, and because of the increasing demand they launched the Tom Boonen champagne again last Tuesday. There's still some discussion about which photo will be used on the label, but more than likely it will depict Tom winning the Tour of Flanders earlier this year. On the back of the bottle containing 12% champagne Marcel Vautrain - a brut premier cru from Epernay of course - there will be a poem to honour the champ, and the capsule will be decorated with another picture. Part of the revenue will go to VZW Pinocchio, which helps the treatment of children with severe burns.
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