SBD/July 16, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Ralph Lauren To Make Team USA Uniforms For '14 Sochi Games In U.S.

Ralph Lauren said the '14 Sochi Games uniforms will be made in America
Following congressional criticism of the USOC regarding Team USA Opening Ceremony uniforms for the London Games being made in China, designer Ralph Lauren Friday announced that the uniforms for the ‘14 Sochi Games “will, in fact, be made in the United States,” according to Eddie Pells of the AP. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun in a statement on Friday said that there is “not enough time to make a change for the London Games because some athletes have already arrived in London and uniform distribution” began this past weekend. The USOC initially “defended its choice of Ralph Lauren, saying it was grateful for the support from an ‘iconic American company’” (AP, 7/13). In N.Y., Eric Wilson wrote judging by “consumer complaints to Ralph Lauren that have followed, the Chinese production appears to be a public-relations nightmare for the company.” The “uproar has caught officials at Lauren by surprise” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/15). NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell said the USOC “stands by Ralph Lauren and says it relies on private funding to support the team." O'Donnell: "Many American companies that sponsor the Games also make their goods overseas, where labor is cheaper. ... In a way, the athletes will represent both their country and the difficult issue of outsourcing” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 7/13).

FROWNING UPON ACTION: In Chicago, Rick Telander wrote, “Just freaking pitiful. Shame on everybody, from super-cool designer Ralph Lauren to U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun to the drones who make up the committee to anybody involved with the U.S. Olympics in any way.” It is “actually a good thing this made-in-China deal occurred and came to light.” Telander: “Good in the sense of educational. This is how our big shots think of us. Our patriotic leaders. This is how our government has allowed corporations to follow the cheapest route to profit, our country be damned” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/15). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote, “Seriously? The U.S. Olympic team’s uniforms weren’t made in the USA?” Both the USOC and Ralph Lauren execs “had to be tone deaf not to think this was going to come back and bite them.” This was an “unintentional slap in the face to the ‘Buy American’ movement” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/14). The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson said of the Team USA uniforms, “It was a foreseeable PR nightmare and somebody should have foreseen it.” Syndicated columnist Mark Shields said the uniforms “look like Preppy Night at the yacht club" ("NewsHour,” PBS, 7/13). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote the “preppy white slacks and double-breasted dark blue blazers will make every American athlete look like a spoiled rich kid named Thad stepping on to his family’s yacht.” Cote: “Far worse, the uniforms are topped by a French beret! Everybody looks dorky in a beret. … The beret finds the spoiled rich kid Thad wearing a paisley ascot, smoking an elaborate pipe and driving a Fiat” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/15). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said, “What are you more offended about with those Ralph Lauren Olympic outfits: That they were manufactured in China or how Wimbledon umpire-ugly they are? Berets? Seriously?” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 7/15).

MADE IN THE USA: In N.Y., James Covert cited sources as saying that the Russian Olympic team since ’11 “has been in talks with Los Angeles-based American Apparel for a deal to design its clothing for the 2014 games” (N.Y. POST, 7/16). In Ft. Worth, Gil Lebreton wrote under the header, “Clothing Issue Misses Point On U.S. Olympic Team.” When the Chinese and Russian Federation teams take the field at the London Olympics, they will “be wearing uniforms by Nike.” Lebreton: “What goes around also comes around. ... [but] I understand the complaints” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/15).

LATE NIGHT LAUGHS: NBC’s Jay Leno said the USOC is “coming under fire now after it was revealed that the uniform for Team USA that they’re going to wear in the Opening Ceremony were made in China. The Olympic uniforms were made in China and it turns out they were made by some of the same kids who could wind up beating us in gymnastics.” Leno said, “A lot of people are complaining (the uniforms) look too French.” The broadcast aired a local news story about the Olympic uniforms which features a blazer and a beret, saying the uniform is not “portraying American style” and critics are “calling for the uniforms to be changed to something Americans can identify with.” At this point in the video, the uniforms were changed to McDonald’s uniforms (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 7/13).
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