USA Swimming Ends SpeedoUSA’s Exclusive Sponsorship Agreement

By Brent T. Rutemiller

COLORADO Springs, Colorado, December 3. SPEEDOUSA and USA Swimming signed a new sponsorship agreement that expires in 2020 keeping SpeedoUSA as USA Swimming's official sponsor, but eliminating Speedo's exclusivity in the area of Technical Equipment.

USA Swimming will now offer non-exclusive base sponsorships that include the use of the term “Official Sponsor” of USA Swimming and the rights to use USA Swimming's marks on the sponsor's products in certain categories. Categories such as Technical Equipment (swimsuits, caps, goggles), Performance Apparel, Athletic Footwear, Training Aids, Airlines, Lodging, Computer Technology and Rental Cars are being or have been created within USA Swimming's marketing structure.

For over 25 years, SpeedoUSA had exclusivity in the Technical Equipment category. This prompted a failed lawsuit by TYR Swimwear in 2010. In a losing statement to the press on May 3rd, 2010, TYR made the following statement: “While we disagree with the Court's conclusion that the wrongful acts did not have a sustained impact on the market, it is optimistic that bringing attention to the conduct will contribute to greater transparency within USA Swimming and will bring about fundamental change to the benefit of the sport.”

When asked about the TYR factor in opening up the market, Matt Farrell, USA Swimming's Chief Marketing Officer said that, “The TYR lawsuit was not a factor. We did it now because we looked at the success of the trials from an attendance and TV ratings perspective, exposure from the Olympic games in London, and the growth of our membership. We then looked at the growth of the industry and saw that it was only incremental. That motivated us to open the market. The sport is in a different era now, especially from a star and television perspective.”

Non-exclusive base sponsorships also include advertising in USA Swimming's Splash Magazine, website, webcast and televised events, plus retail vending at events. Moreover, they include a partnership in industry promotions such as USA Swimming's Swim Today initiative to grow the sport.

Theoretically, the new sponsorship packages will open up the market place and allow the industry and the sport to grow. “I am really proud of what we have done with Speedo and what we have accomplished. We both looked at the new relationship as an opportunity for the sport as we see it today. We both feel that this is a good thing to grow the sport,” said Farrell.

Jim Gerson, President of the Warnaco Group's swimwear division, which includes SpeedoUSA and Calvin Klein Swimwear, said that they were first taken aback by the non-exclusivity decision initiated by USA Swimming, but felt that in the end it will allow Speedo to better reallocate its resources within the swimming community.

“We will continue to support the athletes and add more athletes to our brand. The athletes are critical. We will continue to focus on fitness and performance. Our dollars will remain in those areas. We can redirect those dollars,” said Gerson.

Speedo will continue to have exclusivity in naming rights to two premier events: The Speedo Champions Series (Sectionals) and Speedo Junior Nationals. This relationship will continue through 2020.

“We are here to support USA Swimming and we will continue to support the Speedo Champions Series and the Speedo Junior Nationals,” said Gerson.

In addition to sponsoring the premier events, SpeedoUSA will take part in USA Swimming's Swim Today campaign. Swim Today is an initiative that calls for pulling the swimming industry together to do a joint campaign that grows participation. According to Farrell, “The goal is to reinvest (sponsorship dollars) into our version of the “Got Milk” campaign.”

“We are excited to get more people in the water. It will help all of us in the long run. We will tie in to the Swim Today campaign and are very excited about the 21 million fitness swimmers out there. If we can raise swimming as a whole, we will all win. If we can recruit more and have them stay in the sport longer, then we all win.” said Gerson.

Other changes on the horizon for SpeedoUSA will be the sale of Warnaco Group to PVH Corporation, a fashion company. This sale, that will conclude sometime in the 1st quarter of 2013, was initiated to bring all the Calvin Klein brands under one corporate umbrella. PVH also owns the Tommy Hilfiger brand. After the acquisition, the 2.9 billion dollar Warnaco Group will become part of an 8 billion dollar portfolio. “They (PVH) are all about brand building. We are already improving double digits within our core markets. We really feel that (with this merger) we are in a good position.

“Evolution and change is not always bad. We all need to evolve. We will make some adjustments, but we all want the sport to grow,” concluded Gerson.