Lessons From Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Blame Game


Jul 19, 2012 - by Ryan Berman
Lessons From Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Blame Game

530 American Athletes.
25 Competitive Sports.
Fitted by 2 countries.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Ralph Lauren’s response to its company outsourcing snafu has been less than satisfactory in the eyes of many. Ironic, that our US Athletes will be wearing the fabric of the very same country we’ll most likely be competing with to win the most medals -- as we did in 2008 (US won 10 more medals than China overall, but China won 15 more Gold medals that the Stars & Stripes).

Then again, what could be more American than making our Made In the USA athletes strut around the Opening Ceremonies in Made in China garb?

It’s nothing new. In fact, the US has been parading around the Opening and Closing ceremonies in uniforms made outside the USA since 1998. See: Roots based in Canada as another example.

So what’s different this time around?
The rise of social media.

Social media makes it easy for the consumption eaters to ‘leave no stone unturned’. With Facebook, Twitter and so on, the onion can be peeled back until the sometimes ugly truth has been unearthed.

So here are 5 takeaways that brands can learn from this Ralph Lauren hiccup of hiccups:

5. Brands must treat their fellow Americans with more smarts. Somebody at Ralph Lauren speculated and pushed forward with lowest common denominator thinking. The result? Well-deserved backlash from the American public.

4. This was clearly a business decision vs a brand decision. In fact, the big buck players in branding, PR and marketing -- the real team that will have to pick up the pieces -- were probably on the sideline when this decision was made and propelled through.

3. This is bigger than Ralph Lauren. It’s about marketing America. There is no larger stage than the Olympics. 204 countries and territories competed in Beijing. Expect the same in London. Every one of these countries will get their 15 minutes in the Parade of Athletes which will be broadcasted worldwide during the Opening Ceremonies. What do you think each country's media broadcasters will mention when America enters Olympic Park?

2. The keys to every brand car is eventually in the hands of ‘Us The People’. Brands everywhere need to learn that their story can only be controlled so much. So keep it honest and recognize your brand car is now on a two way street. In the end, we all must realize that brands will be dissected under the microscope by many others.

1. Saying you’ll get it right in 2014 is not a declaration. It’s a death sentence. Seven days until the Olympics is an eternity. All it takes is one day in social media for something to take off like wild fire. And depending on what that message is, it can change the way companies act, react and interact in regards to all of us. Seven days is also enough time to still respond to the backlash. The true stars of the stars and stripes – the athletes who will have the spotlight on them – deserve better. We all do.

Make the right decision, Ralph Lauren. Do what you need to do to instantly right the situation. You have that choice.


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