Phelps Pulls The Same Way To Minimize Short Term Damage

As the 24/7 news cycle played out with Michael Phelps and his pictures smoking with a bong surfaced, those on both sides of the issue passed judgement on his future, from USA Today's Christine Brennan to various experts on Fox News. However whichever side you were on some of the key moves in the crisis situation were played very well by Phelps’ team at Octagon. There was no denial or wait to weigh public opinion, the comments were straight and to the point and they were limited for the first news cycle to a statement about the issue. Now if Octagon did try and buy the photos to stop the problem first, as John Feinstein reported in the Washington Post, and then decided to come clean, there is a behind the scenes issue there and that would create a short term problem more for Octagon with the media than for Phelps with his partners. Even with that as a possibility, the Phelps team still played the poublic perception game straight and narrow, and will now ride the cycle and weigh the damage and move on. Because he is not “in season,” Phelps also has the ability to take pause and read reaction…there is no game or practice or even appearance pending in the next few days. It is even mentioned that some of the short-term deals he has had already have been completed, so the long term rebuild for Michael Phelps leading into upcoming competitions and eventually to London in 2012 can be steady and strategic. Will advertisers wal. In this era, no one is throwing away money already invested in a brand for what will probably be a small transgression, and the “make goods” behind the scene with partners will be coming soon. Will he lose some short term appearance mone. Perhaps. Will some sponsors on the fence use this as a reason to back of. Maybe. But by acting quickly and smartly the Phelps team probably saved some dollars, some embarassment, and maybe just maybe gained a little street cred with some edgier brands who may not have looked twice at his squeaky clean image coming out of Beijing. Could the issue improve his marketabilit. Too soon to say. However it has created some good water cooler talk and some buzz around an athlete in a dormant period, and will most certainly help get the sport a little more buzz when he gets back into the pool. By acting quickly and smartly, the Phelps team shortened the news cycle as best they could and probably have the ability to move the brand ahead with the least amount of damage by speaking with one voice, short and to the point.

Some other good reads…speaking of Octagon, David Schwab's First Call blog has a nice wrapup of celebrity Super Bowl brand activity… Darren Rovell has a good look at the Steelers’ James Harrison's potential upcoming brand oppts…and Business Week takes a look at the issues facing bottled water brands in a slowing economy