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The fallout from Ryan Lochte’s discredited claim of being robbed at gunpoint continued on Monday as three major sponsors dropped the Olympic swimmer and a fourth announced it had no plans to renew its endorsement.
On Monday afternoon, Airweave tweeted out the following statement disassociating itself from Lochte:
The announcement came the same day that longtime sponsor Speedo also ditched the disgraced swimming star, releasing a statement Monday morning that read, “Speedo USA today announces the decision to end its sponsorship of Ryan Lochte.”
The company said it had pledged $50,000 of Lochte’s fee to a charity that helps children in Brazil, and ended on a scolding note, saying, “We cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for. We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”
Polo Ralph Lauren, another Olympic sponsor, also appeared to be distancing itself from Lochte. "Ralph Lauren’s endorsement agreement with Ryan Lochte was specifically in support of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the company will not be renewing his contract," the company said.
Lochte's bio on the clothing brand site’s "Meet Our Athletes" page appeared to be down, and the swimmer no longer featured in a scrolling slideshow of the brand's Team USA endorsers, nor in a spotlight featuring thumbnails of the athletes — although his photo appeared in a cached version of that same page.
Shortly after Speedo and Ralph Lauren's announcement, Syneron-Candela followed suit.
Syneron-Candela offers a line of skin-treatment products that deal with body contouring, wrinkle reduction, acne and vein care, as well as tattoo removal.
"We hold our employees to high standards, and we expect the same of our business partners," the company said. "We wish Ryan well on his future endeavors and thank him for the time he spent supporting our brand."
While it's unclear how much exactly stands to lose, but it will likely be in the millions — especially if one counts the endorsement deals he could have made but now won't.
"The simple answer is he's going to lose a lot," said Scott Kirkpatrick, partner, Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners. "In the future, I can imagine there's not too many brands looking to sign him up," he said. "So many wonderful stories and so many athletes… Why take the risk?"
Lochte's deal with Ralph Lauren is reportedly as much as $1.8 million, according to MoneyNation.com, which pegs the swimmer's net worth at $6.2 million, thanks primarily to a marketable face and persona. Over the course of the last two Olympics in Beijing and London, Lochte had cultivated a reputation as one of the Games' more colorful personalities, and, over the years, attracted sponsors like Speedo, Gillette, Gatorade and Ralph Lauren.
"He was certainly one of the higher profile athletes going into the Games," Kirkpatrick said. "He's got the great name recognition and face recognition... He does a good job of promoting himself."
Olympic athletes — including Michael Phelps — have gotten intoxicated and behaved badly before, but the allegation by Lochte and his teammates that they had been robbed at gunpoint turned a tale of inebriation, petty vandalism and poor judgement into something darker, and as a result, his lucrative image could be in jeopardy.
"If he were telling the truth, it probably wouldn't be a problem," said Richard Burton, David Falk professor of sport management at Syracuse University.
NBC Sports’ Bob Costas said on the TODAY Show the scandal could cost Lochte “millions and millions” in lost endorsements.
Burton said Lochte stands to lose not only his current endorsement deals, but also future contracts from sponsors, as well as money many top-tier Olympians earn from speaking gigs and appearances. And his age makes a rebound harder at this point.
“He’s not the up-and-coming fresh face,” Burton said. “He’s the world champion who maybe has a Tokyo left in him.”
What’s more, the timing of the scandal “couldn’t be worse,” said Larry DeGaris, professor of marketing at the University of Indianapolis. “There’s that initial rush, post-Olympics, there’s still that halo effect from being an Olympic athlete,” which Lochte effectively torpedoed, he said.
“This is what I see as the big problem — you want to strike while the iron is hot to get yourself out there [because] a good part of a celebrity’s awareness is the extent they appear in public, and that’s through endorsements,” DeGaris said.
Sports marketing experts said the prolonged lack of explanation or apology exacerbated the reputational damage Lochte faces.
“What happens from here depends entirely on how he handles it,” he said.