Speedo deals with Lochte's lie
American gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte’s bizarre behaviour relating to claims he made about being robbed at gunpoint has led to his dismissal by four sponsors, most notably luxury fashion retailer Ralph Lauren and swimwear manufacturer Speedo, the latter of which abruptly concluded a near 10-year association with the athlete.
The decision came after Lochte purportedly lied to Brazilian police by claiming that he and his teammates, U.S. swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen, had been robbed at gunpoint in a petrol station after a night of heavy drinking. In reality, they were apprehended by security for allegedly vandalising the forecourt and relieving themselves on the premises.
In a statement, Speedo said it, “Cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.”
In previous years, similar scandals have required careful consideration of sponsors’ reputation management, with the pertinent case in point surely being the much publicised downfall of cyclist Lance Armstrong. That case saw Nike, after terminating their association with him, attempt to further protect their brand by continuing to support the ‘livestrong’ campaign, previously chaired by Armstrong and set up to help empower those affected by cancer.
There is a clear similarity with the recent Lochte case here – unlike Lochte’s other major sponsor, Ralph Lauren, who only supported him for duration of the Rio games, Speedo has been associated with the swimmer for a decade, just as Nike were with Armstrong.
The question which now remains is how Speedo can carefully manage the sudden conclusion of such a long-standing relationship. Much like Nike did with Armstrong, and unlike Ralph Lauren, the brand clearly does not consider their termination of his contract alone sufficient to help shield their reputation. The swimwear brand has therefore also donated $50,000 dollars of the money the gold-medal winning athlete would have earned from his sponsorship to charity Save the Children.
The rest, then, is damage limitation. There is no easy way that Speedo can immediately recover from such a setback, but the fact that the swimmer’s contract was due to expire this year anyway is a small help.