During the Olympics, when millions of eyeballs focus once every four years on speed skating, Under Armour ran into a buzz saw of skater dissention over its Mach 39 racing suits.
Early reports, most prominently in The Wall Street Journal, said the suits were a flop and the skaters blamed them for their poor showings.
To its credit, Under Armour avoided what we call the crisis death strategy: Deny, delay, deceive. And, further, the company got its CEO and other top officials out front with open media access to deny the suit was the source of the skaters’ problems.
Nonetheless, the fact is that U.S. skaters failed to medal for the first time since 1984. Bad skaters? Bad coaches? Or bad suits?
As is often the case in a crisis, people mostly remember the original bad news, not the corrective news that follows it. Thus we have UA getting out into the trade media to claim victory and try to erase the notion that the suits slowed the athletes. The wrapup strategy to any crisis management effort is to control the conclusions, and that too is smart on UA’s part. [And thanks to the ever-vigilant Eric Mower for sharing reports on the redemptive effort.]
Hence the story in AdAge this week doing just that. But did the company turn around or even neutralize the crisis?
My individual impression is that the perception stands with most people — and the search suggests that as well — that the suits were a drag and UA is to blame. It was news during the games, they’re over, and people stopped paying attention, stuck with the bad news conclusion.
Most likely, no one will know definitively whether the suits were a factor in the poor Olympic showing until the next Olympics. What’s also interesting is that UA partnered with Lockheed in the design, but Lockheed isn’t getting any flack.
Overall, UA probably won’t suffer a major reputational hit, nor will sales of its athletic gear suffer much. But it likely won’t enjoy an Olympic success bounce either.
Not the swoosh UA sought.
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.