Posts Tagged ‘Olympics


Under Armour Handled Olympic Crisis With Speed

When Under Armour produced what was proclaimed to be the fastest speedskating suit in the world, they must not have meant if U.S. Speedskating wore them.

The highly favored U.S. Speedskating team finished with shockingly disappointing results in the Sochi Olympics, failing to finish higher than seventh in any race, other than claiming a silver medal in the men’s 5,000-meter short-track.  Several explanations for the lackluster performance have been suggested, but the explanation that has caught the most fire centered around the high-tech “Mach-39” speedskating suits engineered by Under Armour and Lockheed Martin (


As a result of U.S. Speedskating’s performance, the suits were dumped midway through the Olympics and the team returned to the Under Armour skin suits used in previous competitions ( Major complaints about the suits’ vents in the back, claimed they were letting air in and decreasing aerodynamics.

In response to the athletes and media’s outburst, Under Armour took action to protect its products, sales and brand image ( While the crisis gained exposure across digital and print media, Under Armour implemented key tactics imperative in crisis communication management. Among these, timely responses and well-planned messages were key.

In response to the allegations, Under Armour stayed consistent with the brand’s image; stating it strives to produce the highest quality sportswear to its consumers and professional athletes.The brand was also strategic in its defense by offering help to the team, showing the brand acknowledges it may have been to blame for U.S. Speedskating’s poor performance. By focusing on continuing a relationship and providing them with support, Under Armour appeared genuine and human.

Another key tactic when implementing crisis communication is recognizing a spokesman for the brand and providing media strategy. Under Armour did this exceptionally well through CEO Kevin Plank. Under Armour set up a phone interview with Plank that can be seen in the video below (

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 3.53.55 PM

Plank’s obvious media training showed well during the interview and paid off to reinforce Under Armour’s brand identity. He did an impressive job of keeping the interview centered on the brand’s mission and efforts to maintain its relationship with U.S. Speedskating.  In a crisis, media training should entail defining key messaging, pre-media interviews and carefully crafted responses to anticipated questions.

Moving forward, it’s imperative for Under Armour to sustain credibility of its products. There is no evidence supporting the skaters’ speculations, and their performance even after they returned to the old suits does not support their claims. With lack of evidence, Under Armour should perform multiple tests on the suit, specifically with the back vent and athletic stability of the materials used. By providing credibility, Under Armor will protect its product value and sponsorship of future Olympic teams.

Crisis can happen at any time – being prepared for when a crisis hits is essential to protect your brand. Do you need a crisis plan for your company? Let Weise help – visit or email

Do you think the Under Armour suits were to blame for U.S. Speedskatings’ results? Tell us below and on our Facebook page.


The Good and Bad in Sports PR Scandals

Some professional athletes handle scandals and unfortunate news well, and others just don’t. With the Winter Olympics in full swing, I can’t help but notice how some Olympic athletes are doing a good job in navigating potentially negative press, while other athletes – Olympic or not – have crashed and burned in their attempt to avoid the unfavorable limelight.

Two athletes that come to mind are Lindsey Vonn, the American Olympic alpine ski racer, and Tiger Woods – we all know who he is. While their news-generating situations are extremely different, they provide great examples of how to manage news well and how to manage it poorly. (Guess which one managed it poorly!).

Vonn, who received lots of favorable pre-Olympic press, hurt her shin pretty badly just before arriving in Vancouver for the Winter Games. Rather than keeping her injury a secret, potentially performing poorly in competition and then having to explain what went wrong afterward, she stepped up to the plate and contacted the media to discuss her situation. She was upfront about the injury and how she wasn’t sure if she could even compete.

I was very impressed with this tactic. Not only did she quickly and honestly acknowledge the situation, she managed the medias’ and the fans’ expectations – and that’s half the battle. Letting everyone know that she was injured and that she might not be able to compete – or if she did compete, she might not perform well – was the right move in this situation.

On the other hand, everyone by now should be familiar with Woods’ suspected extramarital affairs and his unwillingness to speak to the media. News recently broke about remarks he’ll be providing from the TPC Sawgrass Golf Course in Florida this Friday. According to, he’s expected to discuss his affairs and other personal problems that contributed to his recent scandal.

Now I’m not a proponent of spilling your personal guts on national TV just because you’re a celebrity and you’re in the midst of a scandal, but I do think there is a lot to be gained by addressing the situation early – a la Hugh Grant. Woods’ apology message on his Web site just didn’t cut it for many of the media, his fans, his sponsors or the general public. And his silence seemed to make matters worse with rumors running rampant. Now he’s making public remarks, and he’s chosen to do it during the middle of the Olympics when many of the sports media are out of the country and occupied. Brilliant move on his publicist’s part, but it still screams slime ball. I’m not impressed. Not one bit. I think Woods’ scandal is a perfect example of how not to manage a “crisis.”

So the moral of this story is to be upfront and honest, manage expectations, and don’t be shady. The media and the public will respect you more for being forthright out of the gate.


Reporting from the Olympics, the good and the…not so good

Many articles have been written about the use of social media at the 2010 Olympic Games. Just three days into it and we are seeing a great proliferation of social media, mobile media and blogs coming from Vancouver. There is a lot of talk about what the athletes are doing (they are tweeting and twitpicking), but what about the “reporters?” (Yes, I meant for “reporters” to be in quotes).

I love the Yahoo Sports blog called Fourth Place Medal. This blog has been around since the summer games in China and I hope it is around for a few more games. The writers take a different look at the game, including a posting called Kirstin Holum: From Nagano to nunnery. One of my favorite early posts:

Fourth-Place Medal investigates the mystery of the biathlon rifles.

Today we tackle our first question of these Olympic Games: What’s the deal with those biathlon rifles?

Though they look like toys, these rifles are very real. They shoot .22 caliber bullets at over 1,000 feet per second. To put it another way, if used in the wrong way, it could be deadly. It rarely is. Though biathletes deal with dangerous conditions and elements, the sport has a remarkable safety record when it comes to the rifles. Our search found no known fatalities in major competition.

Bonus fact: Biathlon is the sweatiest sport at the Winter Olympics. A 2002 study showed that athletes competing in the 20-kilometer race produce approximately five pounds of sweat during the event.

So that was the good. Now onto the not so good…

If you are a fan of figure skating, you might want to skip the commentary by Kristi Yamaguchi and Peter Carruthers who are blogging live during the competitions. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of both Yamaguchi and Carruthers. If you know anything about skating you know these two. They were great skaters and they are amazing leaders in the sport, but someone really should take away their keyboards and/or smartphones.

They are not providing audio commentary on the NBC TV broadcast, which means they can just chat it up during the entire performances. These are some of their really “insightful” posts:

They’ll need to stand on their feet….

Pacific Coliseum is SILENT

Impossible Dream music — appropriate for the moment.

One minute left in the warm-up.

The PA announcer just informed the audience that if they wished to throw flowers to the ice, they must be completely wrapped. So noted.

Yes, so noted. But probably could have skipped it.

Another thing I don’t like about these postings is that while I understand that results are often spoiled because of delayed TV coverage, knowing the results of this competition because I read this silly blog posting is a bit of a downer.

Where are you getting your Olympic news? What are some of your favorite reporters? Let us know who we should or should not be following.

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