Under Armour finds light at the end of an icy tunnel
A recent turn of events for Under Armour has once again shown us that with good communication and honesty, brands have the ability to bounce back from a crisis situation with their reputation intact.
During the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, the U.S. male speed skating team found itself at the bottom of the rankings time and time again and fingers were being pointed at the manufacturer of the suits – Baltimore-based athletic apparel company Under Armour. The athletes themselves speculated that the new high-tech suits were contributing to their poor results and quickly resorted back to the suits they used during the Speed Skating World Cup, also designed and crafted by Under Armour. Unfortunately, the team continued seeing less-than-desired results.
The issue received pickup from top outlets such as USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press which only added fuel to the fire. Ultimately, the buzz died down and not only did Under Armour manage to weather the storm, they signed an eight-year deal with the U.S. speed skating team and will supply the team with suits for the next two Winter Olympics.
What did they do correctly?
Refusing to take the defense
Although Under Armour made it clear the company didn’t wholeheartedly agree that the suits were the issue, the company’s executive vice president of marketing Matt Mirchin complied with the U.S. team’s wishes.
“We didn’t believe that it was the right thing to change the suits,” Mirchin said as reported by Wall Street Journal. “But we did what we could to give confidence to the athletes.”
By choosing to support the athlete’s decision and not suggesting the poor results were due to lack of performance, Under Armour followed “the customer is always right” motto and viewed the athletes as their number one priority.
Remaining present during the ordeal
The company stayed right by the team’s side during the whole process to ensure a solution would be found together. While yes, CEO and founder Kevin Plank was close lipped during the first few days, he quickly switched gears and took a hands-on and vocal role. Plank and his staff made it clear that there would be a solution to the dilemma while making sure the company’s positive reputation wouldn’t suffer.
Remained true to company values
While the suspicion that the racing suits caused the poor performances began to subside, Under Armour then had to face consumers who questioned their ability to produce high quality athletic apparel. According to an interview with CNBC, Plank said that Under Armour was “doubling down” and hoped to move past the Sochi controversy.
“We accept getting dust on ourselves,” says Plank. “We’ll come back taller, stronger, bigger and better.”
By remaining present and transparent throughout “Suitgate,” Under Armour took a gold medal in brand reputation management.