In this article:
- Some people thought Bile’s quitting was shameful
- Luckily, the brands that work with her took the right path
When the 24 year-old superstar gymnast Simone Biles announced her withdrawal from the US team during the 2020 Olympics finals, she made a strong statement about the importance of mental health. It became perhaps the biggest story of last month’s games. And brands that stood by her and made their own statement about the value of a role model who has the strength to make a difficult decision like that.
The CRM value of such a stance is significant.
Like many athletes, Biles owes the bulk of her income to brand endorsements, an estimated $6 million, reports gobankingrates So when she dropped out, there was some speculation that some brands may withdraw their endorsement.
Happily, that did not happen. Apparently, and rightfully so, this is not one of so many other cases where athletes did something truly wrong, and lost endorsements over it. No. On the contrary, brands took this opportunity to shine in rallying around the athlete who recognized her own limits, turning what could have been considered a major letdown into a positive affirmation.
Many brands followed the example set by the USA Gymnastics teams. It demonstrated complete support in announcing Biles’ withdrawal in a tweet on July 28:
The same day, Biles posted her reaction, which garnered 1.3 million likes and over 103K retweets, on top of 35K comments (and probably more by now):
On the same day, the brands that had sponsored Biles went on record to support her decision. They include Visa:
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United Airlines, which sponsored Biles and the USA team, garnered a pretty strong engagement rate for its tweet:
One week later, it put its money where its mouth is and flew in her family.
Athleta also voiced its view that Biles remains the greatest not in spite of but because of her decision to withdraw. And, yeah, not “greater” as a competitor. But as the kind of athlete we want young generations to look up to. The thing that makes Biles the greatest “because” of her decision is how she, again, knowingly put herself at the forefront of something bigger than sport.
“We stand by Simone and support her well-being both in and out of competition,” Athleta Chief Brand Officer Kyle Andrew said in a statement. “Being the best also means knowing how to take care of yourself. We are inspired by her leadership today and are behind her every step of the way.”
The brand repeated its support for her in a tweet on August 11:
Messages of support weren’t limited to brands that have relationships with the athlete. Also on August 11, she got a mention from a somewhat unlikely source, Inc. Magazine, which held her up as a leader for mental health and a role model for those in charge of employees.
When things don’t go as planned for a brand that hitched its name to a rising star, it is a challenge to adapt to the change in circumstances. With respect to Simone Biles, the decision her endorsers made to stand by her was the right choice both to uphold the importance of wellness and their own reputations. Nowadays, customers expect brands to show their human sides. Biles paved the way for her endorsers to take the right path here. And they all did. This is one way to prove to customers your brand’s “heart” is in the right place – which can help encourage more meaningful customer-brand relationships.
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