Ralph Lauren, Speedo Cut Ties With Ryan Lochte

Speedo and Ralph Lauren have dropped embattled U.S. gold medalist Ryan Lochte.

In a statement released Monday, Pentland Brands LTD-owned Speedo said it was cutting ties with Lochte after the swimmer lied about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics.

Speedo said it was donating a $50,000 portion of Lochte’s fee to Save the Children.

“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 behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” said the brand in a statement. “We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”

Lochte has been at the center of controversy that began two weekends ago, when the 12-time Olympic medalist claimed he and three other U.S. swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint after a night partying. It was later revealed that the robbery story was a cover-up after Lochte vandalized a gas station bathroom.

In an apology issued Friday, Lochte said, “I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that I am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors and the hosts of this great event.”

The damage was done, though, and now Speedo and Ralph Lauren have dropped the swimmer.

“Brands want authentic partners,” said Joe Favorito, a sports marketing consultant based in New York. “The biggest lesson as I see is whether on the Trump campaign, athletes or celebrities thinking that they can manipulate the media and lie about something, with our access to video, social media and witnesses, these days people find out the truth.”

US Swimming Team
From left: Conor Dwyer, Townley Haas, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps after winning the men’s 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay.
CREDIT: REX Shutterstock.

In a report by Fox Business, Ralph Lauren also announced it would not renew its contract with Lochte.  The deal with Ralph Lauren was limited just to the Rio Games.

“Ralph Lauren continues to proudly sponsor the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team and the values that its athletes embody.  Ralph Lauren’s endorsement agreement with Ryan Lochte was specifically in support of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and the company will not be renewing his contract,” said the company in the statement.

Despite the heat Lochte is under for his mistakes, sports marketing experts don’t consider the situation to be career-ending.

“I think brands are much more careful about the athletes endorsing their products and their behavior outside the sport,” said Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst for The NPD Group. “Brands are paying more than ever for endorsers, and I think rightly demanding appropriate behavior.”

While it’s unclear whether Lochte was planning to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, it is possible that the swimmer can salvage his image, as long as he’s seen as sincere and focused on being a better person out of the pool and an outstanding swimmer.

“I think that we’re a forgiving society, and there is a healing process that will go on,” said Favorito. “He’ll step away, and depending on his career goals going forward, he has a long window to 2020 and can rehabilitate his brand. I know people who have done far worse and come back successfully.”

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