Ryan Lochte

Stars of the Olympics are changing the sponsorship game

A gold medal used to be the golden ticket for lucrative endorsements — think Mary Lou Retton on a Wheaties box. But in the age of social media, athletes are making a name for themselves well ahead of time.

Even more so than in Rio in 2016 and Sochi in 2014, Pyeongchang athletes are Olympian at building brands.

Before breakout star Chloe Kim won gold in the snowboarding halfpipe event, her infectious personality and heartwarming origin story had already won her sponsorships from Toyota , Samsung , Visa and others.

Of course, winning a gold medal amplifies an athlete's reach.

When Kim started the Olympics, she had 15,000 Twitter followers. She now has more than...