Original Copy: Did Kellogg’s Miss a Golden Opportunity When it Dumped Michael Phelps?

Original Copy

Michael Phelps' Corn Flakes Box

I’ve been paying close attention to the reaction to the Michael Phelps story that broke this week. So far, the November photo of Phelps smoking marijuana has only led to a three-month suspension from USA Swimming and the loss of his Kellogg’s endorsement deal. The issue of “Is it fair?” is still being discussed in sports media, and the response has been varied.

Let’s be honest, Michael Phelps made a mistake.

Phelps already understood his position of influence and embraced his opportunity to be a role model. He demonstrated this by starting the Michael Phelps Foundation to help children become involved in swimming on a recreational or competitive level. If Phelps wasn’t concerned about the next generation, his namesake organization wouldn’t exist. Now one of my fears is this situation could derail the good work Phelps’ foundation was established to do.

However, the photo of Phelps and his bong isn’t being ignored, and it probably shouldn’t be. This image may leave people – young and old – disillusioned about Phelps and the influence he could have on the sport of swimming and his fans. By most accounts, our Olympic hero has fallen.

One of the biggest reasons this subject has been widely covered is because it resonates deeply with all of us. Who hasn’t failed, made a mistake or just plain screwed up? Who hasn’t been dumped, abandoned or left out? We’ve all had those moments in some way, shape or form. Granted, it may not have included a corporate sponsor, but we can still relate. Have we all learned from mistakes? Mostly. Will Phelps learn from this mistake? Probably.

So, is it fair that Kellogg’s dropped Phelps? Probably. Responsibilty comes with the territory of corporate sponsorship, and there are consequences for actions. Generally speaking, if you get caught speeding, you’ll probably get a ticket; if you cheat on your girlfriend, she’ll probably dump you. This issue shouldn’t be too complicated.

It should be noted that Kellogg’s isn’t voiding Phelps’ endorsement contract. The company has simply chosen not to renew the current contract that expires at the end of this month. The only reason the company is offering is the bong photo, which is “not consistent with the image of Kellogg.”

Missed Opportunity? Still, I think Kellogg’s missed a golden opportunity in all of this. Beyond its superficial PR value, it’s an opportunity that can really make a difference. How about this?

I’m asking Kellogg’s (and hopefully their PR folks will read this) to at the very least consider moving a portion of the funds that had been earmarked for Phelps to the Michael Phelps Foundation. Together, Kellogg’s and Phelps can make a positive impact on kids.

Next, I’d ask USA Swimming to donate a portion of the financial support they’re withholding. – Tim Glase