Lochte and Speedo Divorce, Brand May Keep Reputation
Speedo is used to being the butt of jokes; but on Monday, the brand made it clear to the world that what Olympian Ryan Lochte did was no laughing matter.
Speedo USA cut ties with Lochte, who apologized about his false report to Brazilian police regarding being robbed at gunpoint. In truth, the drunk swimmer vandalized a gas station bathroom and got confronted by security guards.
The swimwear brand had been Lochte's sponsor for more than 10 years.
The official response regarding our sponsorship of Ryan Lochte. pic.twitter.com/0DdP2RyceD
— Speedo USA (@SpeedoUSA) August 22, 2016
While the swimwear retailer is mainly known for creating a quality product, that product is also known for sometimes being improperly used by consumers. Some swimmers may don too-tight trunks, as the meme goes.
But that may not be Speedo’s main concern right now.
Speedo Has Plenty of Lochte Sponsorship Company
Speedo USA may have been the most prominent Lochte sponsor, but the brand was by far not alone. Another household name, Ralph Lauren, bailed out, too.
Syneron-Candela, “which named Lochte as global brand ambassador for the company’s Gentle Laser Hair Removal system,” reports Money, also dropped Lochte. Another sponsor, mattress manufacturer Airweave, tossed the swimmer’s contract at 4 p.m. on Monday.
airweave's official statement regarding sponsorship of Ryan Lochte. pic.twitter.com/pFGzMSxnTR
— airweave USA (@airweaveUSA) August 22, 2016
Apologizing to Consumers, Especially in Brazil
Marketers could argue that Speedo didn’t do anything wrong and needn’t show remorse. However, the brand may continue to be associated in consumers’ minds with Lochte, so Speedo USA’s donation of $50,000 to Save the Children was the right move on two levels.
- First, when consumers do associate the brand with Lochte — perhaps via searches or by noticing Lochte prominently wearing its products — they will see that $50,000 of what the brand would’ve given the athlete instead went to charity.
- Second, Speedo USA expects Save the Children to use the donation specifically to benefit Brazilian children.
Speedo’s reaction may especially be necessary because as of Monday afternoon, Lochte’s latest tweet was still this:
— Ryan Lochte (@RyanLochte) August 19, 2016
Erase the Memory of Lochte
After divorces, many wipe out photos and any other memories of the ex-spouse. Speedo USA may be doing the same, but the brand hadn’t completed the work as of Monday afternoon.
Despite cutting ties, it may take Speedo awhile to completely move Lochte out. While its sponsorship of the athlete will live on in memes and third-party posts of the brand’s ads, Speedo can do something about getting rid of this photo on its site, which still shows Lochte posing in the men’s racing section, wearing a “LZR Elite 2.”
Making Sure This Doesn’t Happen Again
In the tweet announcing the end of its relationship with Lochte, Speedo USA said it had been with the swimmer “for over a decade.” That brings up the question of whether brand representatives should’ve dropped Lochte sooner, because his immaturity could’ve been evident much earlier. Granted, Lochte's behavior may not have risen to the level of criminality.
- One of the first big clues about Lochte’s character came in 2012: "My last Olympics, I had a girlfriend — big mistake," Bleacher Report quotes of Lochte. "Now I'm single, so London should be really good. I'm excited."
- Then in 2013 came “Lochte's failed reality show,” as CNNMoney characterizes it on Aug. 18 in an article about the Esquire Network airing episodes of "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?"
Within the reality TV show is this gem, according to CNNMoney: “I always pee in the pool ... doesn't everyone?"
In Speedos, perhaps?!!
Comedian John Oliver weighs in on Lochte (Speedo association)
What do you think, marketers? Do you think still another controversy on social media — about Lochte fans defending him by calling him immature and, thereby, revealing inequality in public reactions — could have impacted Speedo, too?
White Privilege Is Why We Laugh At Lochte And Criticize Douglas - Sicker Than Your Average https://t.co/y2vD5aFutP
— SJones (@S1Jones2) August 20, 2016
Please respond in the comments section below.