In case you haven’t heard, Ryan Lochte is in deep water. One of the biggest stars for USA Swimming made a BIG mistake… one that is costing him a reported $2 million in sponsorship deals. On Monday it was announced that Speedo, Gentle Hair Removal, Airweave USA, and Ralph Lauren would all be dropping the swimmer after he lied about being robbed at gunpoint while in Rio.


For brands, having a spokesperson in the news for the wrong reasons is usually a PR nightmare. When a spokesperson does wrong, brands typically try to mitigate the damage and disassociate from the partnership quickly and quietly.

[Learn from a beauty brand’s mistake: How Affinio can help brands in a PR crisis here]

But according to an article by Business Insider, the timing of these sponsorship un-couplings gave the brand’s maximum exposure… and this is exactly what they wanted. For Gentle Hair and Airweave, both relatively small brands, the decision to dump Lochte on Monday, following his anticipated Matt Lauer interview, put them in the forefront of the media frenzy. As shared by Cork Gaines, editor for Business Insider’s sports page, the brands “likely gained more exposure than they gained by having him endorse their products.”

Gaines raised another great point, “How many people knew Lochte was sponsored by these companies before they dumped him on Monday?” Lochte didn’t commit a crime and no charges have been laid, so the risk associating with Lochte wasn’t great, but brands chose to walk away anyway. This became a story in itself.

So now that these brands are top of mind and in the news, the question on everyone’s mind is,

“Who will replace Lochte?”


Using interest-based segmentation, I was able to analyze the audience from each ex-sponsor (Airweave, Speedo, Gentle Hair Removal, and Ralph Lauren) and see who else resonates with their overall audience.

AirWeave USA

The Japanese luxury bedding company already has strong ties to athletes and has ambassadors including Bubba Watson (professional golfer), Charlie White (ice skater) and Meryl Davis (ice skater), all of whom are found within the top 100 celebrity influencers of the AirWeave audience. Using the Affinio interests tab, we can hone in on “Celebrity” influencers, including “Sports Stars.” If Airweave is looking to add another athlete to their ambassador roster, some of the relevant choices would include:



Of all the brands that chose to drop Lochte, Speedo was a no-brainer. Speedo, being at the forefront of the swimming community, would be more concerned about upholding its reputation with other swimmers. So while Lochte is on the outs with the community, it is natural for them to want to separate from the star.

Taking a look at their overall audience, some of the relevant stars are:

* Note: Some of the stars above have had previous contracts with Speedo – this shows that they are still relevant to the audience and Speedo may want to re-engage or extend their contracts.


Speedo could also choose to look at influencers who are specific to each interest-based audience segment. One of these interest-based segments is a triathlete community. The stars relevant to this community includes:


Gentle Hair Removal

It’s not uncommon for male swimmers to invest in hair removal – it actually makes them faster! But, who knew Ryan Lochte was a brand rep? What’s even more interesting is looking at their social audience, Ryan Lochte doesn’t even register as a relevant influencer. Perhaps this speaks to the fact that the pairing may not have been that beneficial to begin with and the brand is actually better off without him.

Gentle Hair Removal has the smallest social audience out of all of the accounts analyzed (they have less than 1k Twitter followers). In looking at their audience, the individuals that are most relevant include expert beauty bloggers and plastic/cosmetic surgeons. Depending on the goals of Gentle Hair Removal (which only has operations out of California), they would be better off to pick a California-based influencer with ties to the area, rather than a star like Lochte with such a broad reach, but not necessarily in their target area. Better suited local influencers include:

Ralph Lauren

The last brand analyzed is the iconic American polo brand, Ralph Lauren. The brand is no stranger to celebrity endorsements; they’ve used stars like Penelope Cruz and Nacho Figueras in the past to promote their brand. But with the loss of Lochte, other possible pairings that are relevant to their overall audience include:


What about sports stars? If Ralph Lauren is looking to add another athlete to their ambassador roster, some of the relevant choices would include:

So while Ryan’s misstep is an unfortunate mistake for his reputation (and paycheck), the brands who have dropped him now have a new opportunity to engage influencers. By leveraging affinity data, brands can align themselves with who matters most to their target consumer and stay afloat.

Do you agree with these brand dropping Lochte? Do you think it was a strategic PR move to gain visibility?

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