Just before the 2014 Winter Olympics, the U.S. speed skating used sponsored apparel from Under Armour. Because of this, Under Armour had a great opportunity for brand exposure within their company and was being advertised as an asset to the speed skating team. As the games began though, the team’s performance was poor and was worse than originally expected.
Athletes started to blame the suits and the way Under Armour designed them which quickly turned the situation ugly. Under Armour talked with the actual team and did not say much about whether or not the suit actually effected the skaters outcome. The skaters decided to return to their older, previously used suits, also made by Under Armour and as a company they publicly agreed with the skating team and supported them in that decision. The skater’s performance did not improve, even with the switch and Under Armour did not let adversity stop them.
They later announced that they would continue to sponsor the team for eight more years (Crenshaw, 2014). According to USA Today, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank says, “It’s not the suit. It was a bit of a witch hunt that began to build.” Plank said that he was confident in the suit and that he still continues to be confident, shortly after Under Armour announced that they would renew the sponsorship, on top of doubling its length until 2022. After that, stock had shifted to 4.5% to $112.04. (Horovitz, 2014).
(Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)
“We’re doubling down. We will not stick our heads in the sand. We want people to know that when we get knocked down, we get back up bigger, better and stronger.” Kevin Plank.
Specifically looking at their reaction, Under Armour made some smart moves. As a company that has a net worth of 3.2 billion, (Forbes, 2015) they are in constant competition with other brands, sponsorship’s and overall increasing the public’s interest of their brand. The Olympics are an important time in the sports industry. People are watching from around the world as to what the athletes will do, and they even pay attention to the sponsors. When Under Armour got fired at, it would have been easy to let that hit take a toll on the company, and potentially even affect their overall sales. Under Armour took action immediately, some people would even call it risky. They took a stance, defended their company and said they would work even harder. When the skating team, as well as the public started blaming Under Armour for their performance, they stood their ground.
Even as the team returned to the older suits, their performance did not increase. In Public Relations there are many avenues of solving crisis’s. Under Armour saw no need for apologizing but still needed to communicate to the public and the Olympics. There are several other avenues the company could have taken in addition to their statements. For example, getting the team new suits or offering something in return to assist them, even though Under Armour believed they did nothing wrong. Overall, they did an incredible job of regaining the public’s trust by their statement and actions.
Public Relations will always involve crisis and the way companies handle it says a lot about them and even how the public will view them. No significant sales dropped during this crisis and Under Armour still pulls in a significant amount of money every year.
Crenshaw, D. (2014, January 1). Well Handled: Four Cases of Successful PR Crisis Management. Retrieved January 1, 2015, from http://mengonline.com/blog/2014/11/26/well-handled-four-cases-of-successful-pr-crisis-management/
Horovitz, K. (2014, January 1). Under Armour surges on Olympic renewal news. Retrieved January 1, 2015, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/02/21/under-armour-olympic-games-winter-olympics-sochi-games-mach-39/5645977/