Under Armour facing reputational hit over speed skating suits


Under Armour apparently designed speed-skating suits that increase, rather than decrease, drag on the American racers. Favored in a variety of events to medal, all have so far finished dismally.

Does a gut punch like this — apparently producing a faulty, or at least ill-conceived, product — affect a company? Reuters reported that “Under Armour shares fell 2.4 percent on Friday.”

The company’s spokesmen have been responsive, but it’s difficult to determine at this point who is right. The skaters will try earlier model UA suits in races beginning today. That might solve the question, but it won’t factually determine if the Mach 39 suits were actually detrimental to their performance.

Certainly high-profile events like the Olympics provide dynamic and financially rewarding opportunities for athletic companies.

BMW engineered the U.S. Bobsled team’s racing sleds. We’ll see how that all works out, as the American two-man, gold-medal favorite, piloted by Steve Holcomb, sits in third place halfway through the competition. Russian and Swiss sleds are ahead.

In sports such as these, races can be won by hundredths of a second, hence the advantages of high-tech racing materials to shave time off human performance.

But too much responsibility for success can be injected into technology. Norway is in a national crisis over the failure of its cross-country skiers to succeed in a sport whose honors Norwegians covet above all others. That may be due to a low-tech issue like ski wax. Certainly low-tech helmets saved numerous skiers and snowboarders from more serious injury on mountain courses that alternated between ice and slush within 100 yards of each other.

We doubt that Under Armour will suffer long-lasting damage from this situation, but its reputation is taking a hit.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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