Phelps Losing Buzz in Brand Attributes, but Athletic Rating Still High

Davie Brown Index Shows Olympian's Aspiration, Endorsement Numbers Down

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CHICAGO ( -- In addition to losing deals and seeing at least one campaign delayed, Michael Phelps has taken a hit in overall buzz following his bong incident.

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps Credit: AP
According to the Davie Brown Index, designed to give marketers a way to quantify a celebrity's brand attributes, Mr. Phelps has taken a dive in each of the eight measures, except awareness, which has stayed the same since December. The winningest Olympian fell the furthest in trust and aspiration, both down 15 points on a scale of 1 to 100. He also fell 12 points in the endorsement category, which measures the degree to which consumers identify with the celebrity as an effective spokesperson. The monthly survey polls 1,000 people. The ratings changes are since December, when the swimmer was being named Athlete of the Year by most major news outlets.

High rating remains
While significantly diminished, Mr. Phelps' rating is still extraordinarily high. He is the third-highest-rated athlete on the index, with an overall score of 84.9, behind Tiger Woods, with an 89.4, and Michael Jordan, who sports a 90.6. He is just slipping by Muhammad Ali, who is holding on to an 84.3, evidence these ratings generally remain pretty static.

"He should have been able to maintain those for the foreseeable future even between Olympics," said Darin David of the Marketing Arm, which administers the index.

Mr. David, who is account director of Mill Sports, the Marketing Arm's sports division, said Mr. Phelps' problem is compounded by the fact that he won't have a televised competition anytime soon. When Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, for instance, he was able to get back on the court and move the conversation to his ball handling. The Los Angeles Laker is 11th on the index, with an overall rating of 78.9.

Mr. David added that second infractions have a multiplier effect.

"Now he has everybody reminded again about the DUI he had, so he's got two strikes working against him," he said. "Certainly he can rebound, but he's going to have to clean up his image and show he's moved on."

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