LYING doesn’t pay especially when you are a sports personality in the public’s eye. US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, 32, learnt the hard way after being pilloried for his exaggerated tale of robbery in Rio, and was rudely awakened when he was dropped like hot bricks by four major sponsors – losing millions. It was a wrong move, as the 12-time Olympic medalist came to realise that he should have embraced his brand, instead of embarrassing his brand.
During an interview with NBC, Lochte admitted that he “over-exaggerated” some details, when he falsely claimed he and three teammates had been held up by armed robbers at a Rio de Janeiro gas station.
He said: “It’s how you want to make it look like, whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or us paying just for the damages, we don’t know,” Lochte told NBC’s Matt Lauer. “All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.”
Lochte originally told USA TODAY Sports that he and fellow American swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen were pulled over while they were in a taxi by men with badges in the early morning hours of Aug14. Lochte said the men robbed them, an account that was eventually called into question by Rio police and proven to be untrue.
Lochte later accepted responsibility for the gas station incident in NBC interview, however it may be too late. As a result of his lack of his indiscretion, there has been a fallout with his sponsors and even the host country.
The “fake robbery story” has brought negative impact to RIO 2016 Olympic games, and cast a bad light on the host country Brazil, for the lack of security during the Games.
Later, the US Olympic Committee had to apologise on his behalf. Leaving no stones unturned, CEO Scott Blackmun said that Lochte and teammates Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger would be punished over their roles in the incident.
DROPPED BY SPONSORS
Speedo was the first, announcing that it dropped its sponsorship of the embattled swimmer. By the end of the day, three other companies also said they would cut ties with him.
“While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone the behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” Speedo USA said in a statement.
The company also announced that it would donating $50,000 of Lochte’s fee to the Save the Children charity, which will direct the money toward youngsters in Brazil.
Ralph Lauren, which outfitted Team USA for the opening and closing ceremonies, said that it would not renew its current deal with Lochte, who is one of the highlighted athletes on Ralph Lauren’s website modeling Team USA gear.
Syneron-Candela, parent company of Gentle Hair Removal, was the third to cut ties Monday, saying in a statement that it holds its employees “to high standards, and we expect the same of our business partners.”
Airweave, a Japanese mattress manufacturer that had pledged to stand by Lochte, announced late Monday in a tweet that it, too, would drop him “after careful consideration.”
Experts in the field of sponsorship and sports marketing deemed this to be a silly mistake. It also goes to show the lack of indiscretion and irresponsibility in Lochte’s side, to handle personal and public matters.
All these does not augur well in the world of brands and branding, where image and trust is everything. People want to feel safe and secure when it comes to Brand association, which is not soiled by lies, distrust and stupidity.
Brand sponsors are very sensitive to such news, as their reputation are at stake, and it was their prerogative and the right decision to quickly chop him off.
“In this day and age, there’s one pretty important rule that anybody in the public eye should think about: Don’t lie,” said Joe Favorito, a sports marketing expert and professor at Columbia, on Friday. “We live in a world where everything is going to be exposed.
“Brands are always looking for honest and authentic representatives because there’s so much competition. There are so many Olympic athletes who you can choose from. You don’t need any nonsense.”
Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert and executive creative director for Baker Street Advertising, also pointed out that Lochte, is on the back end of his swimming career. He won just one medal at the Rio Games, as part of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.
“Lochte’s shelf life was already limited as an endorser,” Dorfman said of this week’s controversy. “He’s now just fallen off the shelf.”
Marketers said many younger Olympic stars emerge with each four-year cycle of the Games. With the competition for endorsements so fierce, it now takes several gold medals — or an unusually compelling personal story — to earn big, multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals. And at 32, it may be impossible for Lochte to recover, they said.
“Given his age, he is less likely to be competitive going forward,” said David Carter, executive director of the Marshall Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California.
LEARN FROM MISTAKES
Lochte told TMZ that he has yet to make a decision about whether to seek help for his drinking. In his first televised mea culpa on NBC, he admitted he was “still intoxicated” when he made the initial robbery claim during an appearance on the network August 14.
“It’s definitely something that I’m going to have to be more responsible about,” Lochte told TMZ when asked about his drinking. “Everything that happened in Rio, I’m definitely going to learn from it. We’re human, we learn from our mistakes.
“Right now I need to just see my family and talk with them about what I’m going to do.”
The Washington Post: “Ryan Lochte loses all four commercial sponsors after Rio Olympics incident” by (August 22, 2016).
USA Today: “Speedo, three other sponsors drop Ryan Lochte” by (August 22, 2016).
sports.yahoo.com: “Sponsors drop swimmer Lochte after Rio scandal” by