It's not an Olympic year. It's been more than 10 months since the Beijing Games ended.
Yet on Sunday, Americans will see an Olympic star in a new commercial for a new company he's endorsing.
Michael Phelps transcends the once-every-four-years interest in swimming, as far as Subway is concerned.
"In many ways, Michael breaks the mold," said Tony Pace, chief marketing officer for the sandwich chain. "Based on all the tracking we do, he's still incredibly highly regarded and his performance is still something people talk about."
Subway announced its deal with Phelps more than three months after he won his record-breaking eighth gold medal last summer. Now it's rolling out his first ad as he prepares to compete in an event that usually doesn't draw much attention in this country: the U.S. national championships, which begin Tuesday.
That meet, and the world championships starting later this month, will be televised on NBC for the first time, a testament to Phelps' appeal.
"It's becoming a more mainstream sport," Phelps told The Associated Press.
The Subway campaign also proves that Phelps' popularity as an endorser has survived the publication of a photo over the winter showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.
"As Michael himself was disappointed, so were we," Pace said. "We didn't think it was reflective of who he was and what he's all about. We also thought because he was truly regretful, we thought he was going to be able to get beyond it."
Kellogg Co. dropped its sponsorship, but Subway announced a day after he was suspended three months by USA Swimming that it was sticking with him.
"It just showed they stood by my side and are going to support me through a lot," Phelps said. "To be able to have someone like that who's going to be there through thick and think means the most to me."
TV viewers will learn Sunday that Phelps favors a meatball sub with jalapenos. Pace said it's likely the company will use Phelps in promotions even during times of year he's not competing.
Phelps plans to enter three individual events at nationals, though he's not saying which ones. He's been focused on improving his 100-meter freestyle, but he acknowledged that the schedule at worlds might prevent him from swimming it.