SBD/Issue 198/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Michael Phelps Violates Swim Cap Logo Ban, But Not Facing DQ

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Michael Phelps “inadvertently” found himself in hot water Tuesday night at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha. Moments after winning the 200 meter freestyle, Phelps pulled off a plain black swim cap to reveal a second swim cap emblazoned with a Visa logo. The “wardrobe malfunction” put Phelps at risk for disqualification from the event because it broke a USOC and USA Swimming rule that forbids swimmers from wearing caps featuring corporate logos. Prior to the trials, swimmers were told that breaking the rule would result in immediate disqualification. But Phelps, already viewed as the face and story of the Beijing Games, was not disqualified. USA Swimming National Team head coach Mark Schubert and USOC Chief of Sports Performance Steve Roush spoke to Phelps after the race. Roush said, “It was inadvertently done, was what we were told, and we believe that was the fact.” When asked what was said and if there were any consequences for breaking the rule, Roush said: “That’s between the swimmer and the organization -- not the media. Michael Phelps has other races to concentrate on.” Phelps’ agent, Octagon’s Peter Carlisle, said: “Michael was rummaging through his bag and that was the cap he came up with. … There was absolutely no plan or intention to do that.” Phelps wore the Visa cap on the only night that Visa Senior VP/Global Partnership Marketing Michael Lynch attended the swim trials; Carlisle said that was just coincidental. Phelps has been endorsed by Visa since '02. Like all Visa Olympic athletes, his contract is believed to be worth $10,000 a year before bonuses, according to industry sources. He wore swim caps featuring Visa and Argent Mortgage logos at the '04 Olympic Trials.

NOT EXPECTED TO HAPPEN AGAIN: Roush said he does not expect another swimmer to violate the logo rules before the trials end Sunday. “The logo information was provided to all the swimmers ahead of time and posted in athlete registration. I’m hopeful there are no further issues. We’ll deal with them and those specific situations as they arise.” Carlisle said, “I stand by my position (that corporate logos on caps) shouldn’t be an issue, but from my standpoint, (breaking the rule is) not the way you deal with it. I would absolutely not want any athlete thinking about that before a race.” Evan Morgenstein, who represents Amanda Beard, Dara Torres and others, said, “I told my clients not to wear logos on their caps, but when you look in your bag, make sure you have your eyes closed.” Swimmers often wear two caps in part to hold their goggles in place and because Speedo has developed a new, more hydrodynamic cap that’s become fashionable to wear on top of an old cap.

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