Speedo Rides Wave of Olympic Success

Almost All Swimming Golds Have Gone to Star Michael Phelps or Others in Its Suits

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Other marketers may have spent more, but no brand has benefited from the early days of the Olympics more than Speedo.
Speedo is planning a nationwide publicity tour for Mr. Phelps and other Olympians at the end of August to coincide with the introduction of more-general-market-oriented swimsuits based on the same technology as the LZR racer suits worn in the Olympics.
Speedo is planning a nationwide publicity tour for Mr. Phelps and other Olympians at the end of August to coincide with the introduction of more-general-market-oriented swimsuits based on the same technology as the LZR racer suits worn in the Olympics. Credit: Speedo

As of Wednesday afternoon, 24 of the 25 swimming gold medals awarded had gone to swimmers wearing Speedo suits. And American swimmer Michael Phelps, whose bid to become the most decorated Olympian in history has dominated the games, is Speedo's most prominent endorser.

Not a bad couple of days for the marketer, which now needs to find a way to leverage its exposure and acclaim to help a planned push into a broader consumer market.

General-market effort
A Speedo spokeswoman said the company is planning a nationwide publicity tour for Mr. Phelps and other Olympians at the end of August to coincide with the introduction of more-general-market-oriented swimsuits based on the same technology as the LZR racer suits worn in the Olympics. The marketer is also weighing its first general-market ad campaign, something it mulled over last fall but decided to forego on the hunch that performance-based buzz would generate more attention than traditional ads.

Speedo's consumer PR agency is French West Vaughn, New York, and its sports-marketing agency is Brener Zwikel & Associates, Los Angeles.

Its full-body suits were worn by the U.S. team during the games' most talked-about event so far: the U.S. men's 4x100-meter relay victory over France, which gave Mr. Phelps yet another of his five gold medals to date. The star swimmer's push for a record eight golds in the games is dominating broadcasts in a manner that has traditionally been reserved for track stars (and Nike endorsers) such as Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis.

In demand
The Speedo spokeswoman said that attention has translated into brisk preorders of the full-body suits -- which cost a cool $550 apiece -- on Speedo's website.

Rival Nike provided an additional boost for Speedo in the days before the games when it sent its swimmers a letter informing them that it would not regard using the LZR racer as a breech of their endorser agreement, a decision the company has attributed to its commitment to "serve athletes."

The Speedo spokeswoman said the company likely would highlight Nike's concession at some point. "We were shocked and flattered by it, and we thank them for it," she said. "Going forward, will we use it in marketing? Sure."

Leaky goggles
About the only thing that has gone wrong for Speedo at the games was a pair of leaky Speedo goggles Mr. Phelps wore while securing his fifth gold medal. Upon finishing the race, he promptly dumped them out, and told an interviewer he couldn't see while swimming.

The spokeswoman said Mr. Phelps uses a different pair of goggles for every race, and it was possible he hadn't tightened them properly.

Gold medalist "Dara Torres is still wearing the same pair of Speedo goggles from 15 years ago," she said. "So they are not often faulty."
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