Ryan Lochte on His Reality-TV Hopes, Sponsors and Crazy Fan Requests

Olympian Wants to Shine More Light on Sport of Swimming

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Credit: Sam Jones/E!

What would Ryan Lochte do? Viewers will find out this month when the Olympic swimmer's new reality show premieres on E!.

The series, which follows Mr. Lochte as he trains for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, premieres on April 21 and will offer a glimpse into his family life, friendships and after-hours escapades. The network originally planned six episodes but later added two more.

With cameos on The CW's "90210" and NBC's "30 Rock," Mr. Lochte is one of several Olympians trying to stretch fame beyond London (Sanya Richards Ross will have a reality series on WeTV and gymnast Aly Raisman is competing on "Dancing With the Stars"). Aside from the upcoming reality show, Mr. Lochte, known for his massive shoe collection, also has aspirations of launching a fashion line.

But with his signature catch phrase, "jeah," and six-pack abs, Mr. Lochte is often depicted by the media as a not-so-bright playboy. This hasn't stopped brands from tapping him as a spokesperson—for Nissan, for example, he recently starred in "Office Burn," a web video in which the 11-time Olympic medalist shows how to stay fit at the office, with conference-call calisthenics, coffee curls and synergy sit-ups.

Mr. Lochte discussed his upcoming show and his portrayal in the media.

Ad Age: What made you interested in starring in a reality TV show?

Ryan Lochte: The reality show is a passion project for me. Swimming is my life and the show can help build awareness for swimming. Swimming is one of the most-watched events in the Olympics. That only happens every four years, but we have many other meets and we're swimming all the time. Why can't the sport be like NBA or NFL if it has such a large following during the Olympics?

Ad Age: What are your media aspirations? Any other projects you'd be interested in working on?

Mr. Lochte: Right now my focus is on Rio and the reality show; those are my two priorities. But I'm not ruling anything out for after the Olympics. I made an appearance on "90210" and other cameos. Acting is fun and I could see myself doing more of that.

Ad Age: How do you choose which brands to work with?

Mr. Lochte: I have some great sponsors and as I train up until Rio I am sure there will be more opportunities. I pick the brands to work with that best represent who I am. I have been working with Speedo for almost seven years and other sponsors include Nissan, Mutual of Omaha and AT&T.

Ad Age: How do you feel about the way you're portrayed in the media?

Mr. Lochte: I always try to be myself; it's too hard to be anything else. Sponsors who come on know exactly what they get with me. I'm not going to be fake or try to be a superhero. I am who I am.

Ad Age: What is your media diet?

Mr. Lochte: I'm a huge hip-hop fan. Music is a big part of my life. … I don't have a lot of time to watch TV. When I do, it's mostly catching up. I love "Entourage." I'm a movie guy. I have a Doberman who watched TV with me on my couch. Recently we've watched "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Django Unchained." There's the chick flick, "What Women Want," I like that one too.

Ad Age: How do you use social media? Any favorite platforms?

Mr. Lochte: I try to use social media as often as possible to interact with fans. I host chats using the #asklochte [hashtag] once a month to give fans a chance to get to know me better. I've also been using Instagram. ... My fans are always asking me to take pictures with my shirt off -- I don't know why, but I get that request all the time.

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