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Published
Aug 22, 2016
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Under Armour makes costly mistake when Phelps wears Nike in photoshoot

Published
Aug 22, 2016

Michael Phelps was photographed for the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing Nike pants, a wardrobe oversight by his sponsor Under Armour that cost them a $450,000 brand marketing opportunity.



Sports Illustrated circulates to 18.2 million people. According to sponsorship analytics reported by Apex Marketing Group Inc., this oversight will cost Under Armour about $453,000 worth of brand exposure.

“Somebody fell down, especially when you’re the most decorated athlete in Olympic history,” said Howe Burch, a former Reebok and Fila marketing exec.

The photoshoot for the cover of Sports Illustrated took 15 minutes. Phelps went to it straight after a USOC appearance where he was contractually required to wear Nike when supporting Team USA in an official USOC capacity since Nike and the USOC have that deal.

Under Armour spokesperson Danielle Daly, and Phelps' agent Peter Carlisle, said he was required to wear Nike at that USOC event, however the photoshoot was not an official USOC event. Katie Ledecky wore Nike shorts, but Simone Biles wore her Under Armour competition uniform although she is personally sponsored by Nike.

In other words, there was no reason for one of Phelps' assistants to hand him Under Armour bottoms so he didn't violate his sponsorship contract.

Nike's deal with the USOC requires athletes to wear the Team USA Nike uniforms for press conferences, medal ceremonies and other official Olympic functions. Seeing the Sports Illustrated cover shoot was not one of those, one of Phelps' assistants or an Under Armour brand marketing representative should have handed him a pair of UA bottoms to showcase on the cover.

Rick Burton, a former US Olympic Committee chief marketing officer. “Under Armour must be going wild behind closed doors.”

Garry Cook, UFC chief global brand officer and a former Nike executive said of Phelps' pants, “Every now and again, your personal life slips into your endorsement life. It does happen.”

With that slip up, Nike gains almost half a million dollars of free brand exposure. The full article and photo appear in Sports Illustrated's August 22, 2016 issue.

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