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Ryan Lochte turns trouble into humor – and profit

The Olympic swimmer stars in ads for PowerBar and

When celebrities makes mistakes, Americans forgive but they don’t forget. And that’s just what advertisers love about this country’s celebrity culture.

The latest example, and perhaps one of the cleverest, is Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. While he’s won 12 medals – placing him second to only Michael Phelps – the 32-year-old is perhaps best known for “Lochtegate.”

Last August, Lochte and two Olympic teammates claimed they were robbed at a Rio de Janeiro gas station during the Summer Olympics. Lochte told the details on the Today Show but then changed his story telling NBC’s Matt Lauer that he was drunk and “over-exaggerated he story.”

That would usually be enough to make most advertisers laugh at the idea of hiring Lochte as their spokesman. Indeed, Lochte was dropped Speedo and Ralph Lauren, among others, but two companies defied common wisdom and recently devised uncommon advertising campaigns. One even launched a $1,000 sweepstakes with Lochte as the pitchman.  The two companies do very different things, but they both landed on the same clever concept. “Second Chances” is a one-stop shop for Americans who want to get out of credit card and student loan debt. Since personal debt is a more serious national problem, had to find a spokesman who embodied the attitude, “Everyone deserves a second chance.”

It created TV commercials featuring Lochte and as part of their promotion, consumers can enter to win $1,000 in a giveaway titled #YourSecondChance.  One of the commercials features Lochte hanging out by the pool – while a female fan approaches. The other features him conducting a job interview with his pregnant fiancé. In both cases, hijinks ensue.

PowerBar: “Clean Start”

PowerBar is an energy bar pioneer and helped to make the food an American staple. Not content to play the role of elder statesman, the company has created a new line called “Clean Whey Bars,” which touts their lack of artificial sweeteners and colors. How best to promote them? PowerBar settled on Lochte for a 60-second humorous commercial called Clean Start, where the swimmer plays up his reputation by saying things like, “Metaphorically speaking, metaphors are chill.”

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