It all happened in a flash.
Within 24 hours, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte lost all four major endorsement deals after his bizarre behavior in Rio de Janeiro.
Swimwear Speedo USA was the first company to sever ties, saying in a statement that “we cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.”
Ralph Lauren, a hair removal brand and a mattress company made similar announcements, ending their relationship with Lochte.
To limit the damage to its reputation, Speedo announced that it would donate $50,000 to Save The Children for relief aid in Brazil.
The 32-year-old swimmer could lose millions of dollars, because of a false account about being robbed at the Olympics. His personal brand is in tatters over a catastrophic lapse in judgement.
But for marketers this scandal is about much more than Ryan Lochte. Or at least it should be.
Integrity and trust are crucial parts of any company or institution’s relationship with customers and followers – especially when events very rapidly can spin out of control. Linking up with entertainment and sports stars and other public figures carries risks as well as potential rewards.
Due diligence is required before firms sign endorsement deals.
But much more than this is corporate culture. Are you working with content creators who are deeply guided by a sense of ethics and truth telling?
Speed is vital in crisis communications. But so is transparency.
All these concerns should be front and center when deciding who to play with in the multi-platform world of marketing and branded content.
Richard Davies is podcaster and podcast consultant. His firm DaviesContent designs and makes digital audio for companies and non-profits.