Repairing the Lochte Brand: Three Things He Has Going for Him


heathBy Heath Fradkoff, Principal & Founder, Ward 6 Marketing

Ryan Lochte’s actions in Rio were reprehensible and sponsors are dropping him accordingly. As a result of just a few minutes of bone-headedness, his ability to make a sustainable living from swimming may be in jeopardy.
However, he does have three things going for him that may allow him to save his personal brand:
  1. The American public loves a comeback story.
  2. His swimming successes indicate a dedicated work ethic.
  3. The Olympics, the biggest stage for US Swimming, comes around every four years.
Repairing the Lochte Brand - Three Things He Has Going for Him

(Photo Source: Twitter)

As with a good majority of public PR crises, the best thing Lochte can do is to show the public that he’s identified a problem and is working toward a solution. Now, he’s not a kid in his 20s, forgivable for “boys will be boys” offenses. He’s a grown man of 32 with real responsibilities toward his sponsors, team, and fans.

It will therefore take a grown-up approach. Lochte will need to gather a team around him to help him get to the root of his actions. He should seek counseling for emotional and/or drinking and drug related issues. He’ll want to surround himself with a tight circle of family and close friends to show he’s getting the right kind of support.

He should focus his efforts on facing those challenges, and then once he’s making progress, he should use his high-profile standing to help others and turn public attention to those issues. He should work with non-profit organizations and be a pro-bono spokesperson on related issues. He should also work with Brazil-focused charities as a way to apologize to the Olympic hosts.
His efforts will have to be honest and executed with real dedication. As a mentor once taught me, the very best PR messaging “has the added benefit of being true.” Given the dishonesty behind his actions, there’s no alternative in Lochte’s predicament.
Certainly, this will require quite a time investment from someone who is also required to spend countless hours in the pool and in training. But given the commitment and work ethic required to become an Olympic medalist, that dedication is likely within his ability.
Americans love stories of triumph over adversity. They admire change for the better. If Lochte can show change in a way that feels sincere and lasting, then fans will come back to support him, as will the sponsors. And with four years until the next summer Olympics, he has time to make a profound transformation.

About the Author: With more than 16 years of diverse communications and marketing experience, Heath Fradkoff is Founder & Principal for Ward 6 Marketing. Much of his work has been in technology and B2B practices, along with consumer media and product brands like PBS, Associated Press,, Epicurious (Conde Nast), Hitachi and Mitsubishi. His written pieces on behalf of clients have appeared in Advertising Age, Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch as well as numerous industry trade publications. 


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