Olympics Performance Analysis Sports Business

Speedo’s LZR Racer On Nike Athletes

In the post, New Olympics Swimwear Breaks Records, I introduced readers to the Speedo LZR racer.  Since then, the Nike company has been extremely nice to its clients, and in an unprecedented business decision, has decided to allow its sponsored racers to wear the Speedo LZR swim suit in the water in China.  After phenomenal results by the athletes wearing the LZR suit at U.S. Olympic qualifying meets, Nike swimmers received a letter telling them that wearing the Speedo brand during the games would not be seen as a compromise to their contract.

Since the LZR hit the market, 48 of 52 world records have come in the suit. All nine-world records set at the U.S. Olympic Trials were from swimmers wearing the Speedo LZR.  Many of the top athletes around the world are wearing the LZR racer or have switched to it.  This swimsuit is the equivalent to steroids in baseball, however the suit is legal.  Athletes that do not wear the suit have stated that they feel at a disadvantage.  The record times by athletes wearing the suit only prove these statements to be true.

The fact that the worldwide leader in sport shoes and apparel is allowing its sponsored athletes to don the Speedo brand at the Olympics is a big deal.  Nike pays its athletes millions of dollars (LeBron James was paid $90 million before he even played a game in the NBA).  The Olympics are a HUGE stage for all athletes and companies like NIKE.  The fact that Nike is giving sponsored athletes the choice to wear another brand shows the humane side of the billion-dollar big business.  Nike is putting aside its high priced contracts and will be losing plenty of airtime for the swoosh, but will be allowing many athletes the opportunity to creep closer to their Olympic dreams.

Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said, “Nike is a company that exists to serve athletes – hence this limited exception to allow Nike swimmers to compete without distractions was the correct thing to do given the very unique circumstances.  No one believes more than Nike that innovation is integral to helping athletes realize their full potential.”

The fact that the athletes are giving the Speedo suit such high praise is rather alarming, even though the world’s records are backing it up.  Usually athletes are the first ones to claim that it is their training or their bodies that break these world records, not a newly designed piece of fabric.  If this suit really gives that much of an advantage to athletes in the water, how is it fair to the athletes who do not wear the LZR racer?  Will we be looking back at swimming in the Beijing Olympics like we look back at the steroid area in baseball?

The Speedo LZR racer costs anywhere from $550-$850 dollars, but it is not out on the market yet to the American public.  With the results that individuals wearing the suit have posted so far, it is likely that we will see an entire field of racers wearing the suit.  The Olympics are only days away and I am excited to see how many swimmers wearing this suit will win gold.  Michael Phelps will be wearing the LZR racer in his attempt to win 6 Gold Medals.  If Nike is letting its athletes switch, I can only guess other sponsors will do the same.