Friday, February 06, 2009

Snap, Crackle & Pot - Kellogg drops Michael Phelps - and he faces swim ban - how PR failed swim star

Saying too little too late is costing Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps dearly with a three month swim ban and he has been dropped by a PR savvy sponsor - all because his own PR advisers blinked when faced by a News of the World exclusive photo of him apparently smoking cannabis.

We blogged about Phelps and the fundamental crisis management blunders earlier this week (catch up here and more recently here) and have closely watched the media circus unfold: his apology for inappropriate behaviour - he never admitted smoking cannabis and the more careful media have never actually said that he did - he was only pictured with a bong. The media went crazy and are still bouncing off the walls.

The local sheriff where the party is alleged to have taken place is looking to prosecute Phelps, which is no doubt one of the reasons Phelps has not admitted anything other than being foolish - it would be easy to prove the criminal case if Phelps actually admitted anything more substantive!

How different would it have been if Phelps had gotten ahead of the maelstrom of negative PR by speaking up sooner? If the first avalanche of stories had contained the belated contrition he has displayed he might have escaped this ban. Instead the media and the anti-drug lobby has whipped itself into a frenzy that has led to USA Swimming announcing the three-month ban (which incidentally does not interfere with any major competitions)

The decision by Kellogg to drop Phelps is itself quite a PR savvy move. It turns out the contract only has a matter of weeks to run and mindful how many children eat their cereal from Phelps-emblazoned boxes, they have now won a huge amount of publicity for 'doing the right thing' without losing any benefit from the sponsorship. They said:

"Michael's most recent behaviour is not consistent with the image of Kellogg. His contract expires at the end of February, and we have made a decision not to extend his contract."
This leaves his other major sponsors - Speedo, Visa and Omega Watches -looking rather greedy in contrast and I would not be surprised to see them further break ranks. Especially if the News of the World has more photographs tucked away for this weekend - a common tactic by the leading Sunday tabloid.

1 comment:

Heather Farr said...

I agree; although not the ideal situation, this seems to have worked for Kellogg.

Honesty is the best policy in Phelp's game, if only he'd known that sooner!

Thanks for the link to your blog, I will be sure to check it out on a regular basis!