#LochteGate means lesser-known swimmers may miss their pay day

Fri Aug 19, 2016 7:29pm EDT
 
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By Liana B. Baker

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Veteran swimmer Ryan Lochte's brush with Rio police has already hurt his appeal to sponsors - but for two lesser-known team mates, it means they may never get a chance to sign their first major deal.

Lochte has several major sponsors, including fashion house Ralph Lauren Corp, which took down any reference to the gold medalist on its website on Friday, and swimwear company Speedo which has said it is following the situation.

But for team mates Gunnar Bentz, 20, and Jack Conger, 21, who are also embroiled in what social media has termed #LochteGate, going professional and scoring future business opportunities are now next to impossible, marketers say.

Unlike Lochte, who won the first of his six career gold medals in Athens in 2004, the pair were competing in their maiden Olympics and were yet to reap the commercial benefits of standing atop a Games podium.

They swim at U.S. college level, which means they cannot earn money. They stood next to Michael Phelps on the podium after winning gold in the 4x200m relay, so it was possible they would have been able to go pro after Rio.

But, after earning more notoriety for allegedly lying to Brazilian police than their performance in the pool, sponsors are now unlikely to put their dollars behind them, said Matt Delzell at The Marketing Arm, an Omnicom Group Inc agency that advises brands on sports endorsements.

"It's relatively hard for any swimmer to break out and to attract sponsors, but if you couple it with how they all corroborated a fabricated story, it's a black eye," Delzell said.

Before they walked into the gas station with Lochte in the early hours of Sunday morning, the road for Bentz and Conger to attract big sponsorship deals was already paved with obstacles.   Continued...