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Levick Daily. Thoughts. Perspectives. Insights.


Has Michael Phelps' Reputation Gone Up in Smoke?

Gene Grabowski

As Michael Phelps is learning the hard way, even Olympic Gold can quickly lose its luster in the midst of a reputational crisis. With tens of millions of dollars in endorsements at stake, one of the greatest athletes of this generation must now swim upstream against the growing perception among parents that he may not be the best role model for their children.

The jury’s still out as to whether getting caught on camera smoking marijuana is going to sink Phelps’ celebrity spokesperson potential before it’s ever fully realized. But he would be well advised to take some immediate crisis communications steps to salvage his reputation – and future endorsements. I outlined those steps in an interview on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike show yesterday morning.

First and foremost, Phelps has to avoid looking like he’s being handled. News of his agents’ attempts to cover-up the embarrassing episode by bribing British tabloid newspaper reporters was bad enough. Now, he risks appearing even more disingenuous if his public statements and appearances continue to look like they were written and choreographed by a team of lawyers.

Second, he needs to consider creating an ““Oprah moment” – an opportunity to go on the record, without the help of handlers, and deliver messages of repentance and redemption before the audiences that matter most: the parents of young swimmers around the country who drive their children to practices and swim meets. A single appearance on Oprah, Larry King, or The View – where he can present himself as the wholesome boy-next-door that he is – could do the trick.

Third, he needs to get back to being recognized for being the hard-working, talented, likeable young man that he is by allowing news photographers to attend one of his grueling workouts and having a coach at the pool’s edge attest to his work ethic with the news media.

Phelps needs to take charge and apply the same determination and dedication to restoring his reputation that he used to drive to the top of his competitive field. But he can’t just tread water passively and allow his reputation to go up in smoke.

Click here toí‚  listen toí‚  the full interview with Mike and Mike.

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