Michael Phelps suspension has major brand implications

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

In addition to his six-month suspension following a DUI arrest, Michael Phelps will not receive any funding from USA Swimming during that period. But the most decorated U.S. Olympian of all time could lose far more money if his major sponsors — among them Aqua Sphere, Omega, Subway and Visa — cut him loose.

Phelps will not represent the U.S. at the 2015 FINA World Swimming Championships, though he is still permitted to train with his member club. In an effort to control the damage as much as possible, Phelps took to Twitter to issue a public apology:

In 2009, Kellogg’s did not renew Phelps advertising contract after photos of him smoking marijuana surfaced on the Internet. A Kellogg’s executive said the photo was inconsistent with the company’s image. Phelps was also suspended from competitive swimming for three months for the offense.

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

This is also not Phelps’ first DUI. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation after a similar incident in 2004. Phelps released a similar public apology then, but fans may be less forgiving this time.

The public seemed to easily forgive Phelps’ transgressions from the 2004 and 2009 incidents. This can perhaps be attributed to Phelps’ 22 Olympic medals or the presence of more appalling scandals in other sports. The NFL’s ongoing domestic violence issues and two separate incidents of racism by NBA owners may protect Phelps from more public outrage once again.

With the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics approaching, will fans forgive Michael Phelps if he steps onto the medal podium again? Will his sponsors stand by him? Only time will tell.

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