By Brent T. Rutemiller
PHOENIX Arizona, December 20. Before the ink could dry on a newly-signed agreement between USA Swimming and Arena, SpeedoUSA was already planning its ground attack to maintain its brand as number one in the United States.
Earlier this month, USA Swimming ended its exclusivity agreement with Speedo, paving the way for Arena to become the exclusive apparel sponsor for USA Swimming's National Team. Speedo was taken aback at first by the decision, but quickly rebounded with a plan for a new marketing strategy.
“Our first goal is to hire seven field representatives who will be placed regionally around the country,” said Jim Gerson, President of SpeedoUSA. “Brian Basye (Director of Sports Marketing), is now taking applications. All of the reps will be in the field to better serve the coaches on deck and our team dealers. I just felt that we were not servicing to the level that we are expected to service. That is why we want to have more boots on the ground and make sure that we have good quality people who are out there servicing our teams,”
However, the real game plan for Speedo is to focus on the next generation. Maintaining title sponsorship of the Speedo USA Swimming Junior Nationals and the Speedo Championship Series allows Speedo to reach the younger athletes. Speedo wants to focus on the grassroots level with new and exciting lines of products.
“My goal is that if these kids are racing in Speedo for 10 years, they will continue to race in Speedo,” said Gerson. “Our focus is really between the lanes and making sure that we are building the best product for training and race day; giving them the best chance to succeed. That is our focus now and will continue to be as we go forward.” This strategy makes sense for Speedo since swimwear and training equipment have proven to be a fundamental part of Speedo's success.
Arena, on the other hand, needs the brand awareness that comes with an out-of-the-water apparel deal. The company is in the early stages of making a major push back into the United States after years of trial and error. The last time the Arena brand had significant market share in the United States was in the late 1970's and early 1980's when the nylon warm-ups with the Arena logo down the arms and legs flew off shelves.
The fact that two major swimwear companies are sponsors of USA Swimming is huge for USA Swimming. Arena's first goal is to establish its brand. Speedo already has brand awareness, so its goal is to capitalize on its brand in the water. What is very apparent is that both visions serve each company's current needs.
Gerson went on to say, “It would be nice to go back and be the (USA Swimming) National Team apparel sponsor so people can see our brand when the athlete goes to the podium or walks around on deck with medals. But if it means the difference between taking my eye off the ball and not focusing on what is between the lanes, I would rather focus on being the best between the lanes. If the sport was like basketball, apparel would make a big difference because those athletes compete in apparel. In swimming it is different. Athletes take off their apparel before they compete and race in the suit, cap and goggles of their choice.”
According to Gerson, Speedo's first quarter in 2013 will present consumers with new suit colors and stunning aesthetics including multiple releases of new practice suits within its Flip Turn line. Never-before-seen sportswear, jackets and Tee-shirts that are intended to inspire will be released for the kids.
When asked about the future line of performance swimwear and specifically the FastSkin III (FS3), Gerson said that, “The FS3 is a system that is still evolving. It is a suit, cap and goggle combined system. We are evolving more suits also. Athletes and coaches will see a new injection of silhouettes in the third quarter as part of the suit evolution.”
The FastSkin suit was born in Speedo's AquaLab. Innovation and testing within the AquaLab is still a big part of Speedo as it brings cutting edge products to the market.
In the end, Gerson summed it up best when he said, “Athletes will embody what embodies them. If Speedo got them their lifetime best swim, they are probably going to want to wear the Speedo apparel brand outside the pool.”
On this page are some of the advertisements that Speedo has placed in Swimming World Magazine through the years that show its evolution in the marketplace. Below is their first ad in 1960.