Under Armour’s Olympic Crisis Management

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    Was Under Armour’s crisis management podium-worthy?

    Nobody’s quite puzzled out what exactly caused the underwhelming performance of U.S. speed skaters during the Sochi Games, but as the losses piled up many looked toward the company behind the team’s high-tech “Mach 39” skin suit, Under Armour.

    With massive hype surrounding the suits and the team as a result of Under Armour’s own marketing and broadcaster’s repeated mentions, expectations were high, but after six days of sub-par racing the U.S. team actually swapped back to their old uniforms, dropping the popular sportswear manufacturer’s stock price some 2.4% overnight.

    The response

    Under Armour wasn’t shy when the need for crisis management became obvious, telling anyone who would listen about the rigorous testing procedures for the Mach 39 and mentioning multiple other groups of athletes who found success in world events like the World Cup and even in other sports at Sochi itself wearing Under Armour gear.

    With sponsors willing to put big money into speed skating in short supply and a team whose comments to the media had put a serious strain on the sponsor-sponsee relationship, nobody was quite sure how this one would pan out, but in the end Under Armour made a bold move to put the entire situation behind them, committing to another eight years of support for the U.S. skating squad.

    It’s not all smooth sailing from here…

    Although Under Armour got out in front of the situation much more successfully than the U.S. team did their opponents, a repeat in 2018 would be dangerous for the company’s reputation. You’d better believe there will be a lot of crisis management going on behind the scenes over the next four years as Under Armour works to perfect the suit, and athletes are better trained in what NOT to say about the people paying to support their Olympic aspirations.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]