At SwimSwam, we’ve known about this story for months. We’ve known because it directly impacts ad revenue across the entire swim market, including us. More on that later, and how it’ll impact elite athletes.
Now that the story is live, here’s what’s evolved in a nutshell:
Speedo and USA Swimming (USAs) have been locked in a partnership orbit for over two decades. Speedo is enormous in the swimming community, and they drive the apparel market. There’s no other way to describe it. However, with the changing times and mulitple media platforms (web, TV, mobile, print) and proliferating events (swim meets, swim tours, and USAs swim-marketing campaigns), giving Speedo everything doesn’t really make sense. USAs can and will continue to offer Speedo prime categories to brand with their logo, but USAs has opened up dialogue with other swimwear brands to join the USAs Family.
Bottom-line, what USAs is doing is good for the sport. A strong and competitive swimwear market — without a doubt — helps to create a stronger swimming community as a whole. Brands like Arena USA, Finis, Nike Swim, Engine and A3 now have an opportunity to leverage their good names with USAs, the national governing body that sends our best and brightest athletes to the Olympics and permeates every nook and cranny of the swimming community.
Matt Farrell, USAs’ Chief Marketing Officier (CMO), is an affable guy, a creative force with a good heart. I’ve known him for years, and even seek his advice from time to time, which he always gives. Farrell lives by the USAs mission statement, which is to grow the sport. Allowing all swimwear brands the opportunity to work with USAs will be a marketing boon, and Farrell deserves credit here. Consider Speedo’s campaigns in the past, print, TV commercials, posters with swim stars. They have driven awareness about the sport to the broader community, promoting the swim life far and wide. With multiple swimwear partners you can expect to see multiple campaigns between now and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
In the short term, a couple of areas will be effected. Swimwear brands will be allocating dollars directly to USAs. Budgeting these dollars is and will be among their top priorities, and it will effect 2nd and 3rd tier elites seeking swimwear sponsorships (not Ryan Lochte, Rebecca Soni…elites with multi Olympic gold medals). If you’re an elite on the cusp of winning international medals representing Team USA, getting a swimwear endorsement got harder as of this fall. Moreover, if you’re an elite finishing up your collegiate eligibility next spring, landing a swimwear endorsement contract may take a little longer and “may” not be quite as lucrative.
This is simply a reality of the marketplace, and I strongly believe it will be short-term. By no means does it leave elites high and dry. USAs continues to support elites through the Athlete Partner Program (APA), which has been a successful and trendsetting in the nontraditional sports niche. Elite swimmers, specifically the post-graduate stars of the sport, will be able to train, travel and feed themselves. On the upside, the new USAs swimwear partners should increase their revenues.
Short-term loss, should, in theory, create a big gain in a few years. That is because with more competitiveness in the market, and with everyone settling in to their different positions with USA Swimming, it will become even more imperative for brands to differentiate themselves based on the athletes who wear their suits at big meets and the voices the brands associate themselves with.
More revenue for more swimwear brands should equal more endorsement contracts for elite athletes in the future… It’s interesting to note, swimming websites, like us, seeking swimwear ad revenue, are also in the same boat. This opportunity to partner with USAs has taken priority over us, but, considering the longterm gains being a stronger market, we have high hopes for what USAs is doing.
Candidates for USAs swimwear partnerships are obvious, notably Arena who is making big moves in the US marketing to regain a footing lost in the 80’s when they pulled out and focused on Europe, Africa, and South America.
Swimswam will keep you updated.