Ryan Lochte’s Image Rehabilitation with Debt.com

Ryan Lochte’s presence in the 2016 Olympic media was ubiquitous, but for all the long reasons. Caught in bumbling lie after bumbling lie, the swimming star came across like a drunken frat bro more than an elite athlete. After an immediate shift from American hero to American pariah, we didn’t hear a lot about Ryan Lochte for awhile.

But now, he’s back, endorsing Debt.com in a way that’s both humorous and charming. We probably have not seen the end of Lochte in the American cultural landscape. As a marketing plan, it’s interesting that Lochte has picked this method to re-ingratiate himself with the public, but we can’t say it isn’t effective.

Debt.com is a site dedicated to getting the average person out of debt. This is a big market, especially in the United States, where the average citizen dies with $62,000 in debt. More than 70% of Americans are in debt when they die. Not only is this a huge personal difficulty for these individuals, it also has a major corrosive effect on the American economy.

No one knows more about climbing out of a metaphorical pit than Ryan Lochte. Just like a consumer might try to rebuild his credit and savings after years of poor choices regarding debt, Ryan Lochte is trying to rebuild his public image. Like most people struggling with debt, he still has a lot of raw materials to work with.

When an individual goes into debt, it is usually because they had access to capital and just used more of it than they could handle. They had that access because of certain positive qualifications, like steady employment, access to higher education, and quality healthcare. It’s easy to get in a bad place with debt, despite these benefits. People often make mistakes because they don’t understand, or haven’t deeply considered, the consequences of certain actions. Kind of sounds like a situation from the last Olympiad, huh?

Ryan Lochte certainly didn’t make the mistakes he did for deeply held malicious reasons. If the public understands the situation correctly, some drinks were had and things…got out of hand. The fact that Lochte lied about the events is more problematic, but it’s understandable if you think about it. After all, Lochte was one of the most visible athletes in the entire Olympic games. Only Michael Phelps was a better swimmer. In any other year, Lochte would have been the #1 world champion.

He had sponsor relationships to consider, fans to please, and the ineffable responsibility so many prominent athletes feel to be a good role model. Maybe Lochte disappointed himself and just wanted the problem to go away so he could swim. If so, that plan didn’t work. But it’s not exactly reason to exile him forever.

Regardless of your feelings on the subject, Lochte is back, rehabilitating his public image, just as Debt.com customers are rehabilitating their finances. It’s an appropriate and ironic pairing, but one which will build awareness for both Debt.com and Lochte’s charitable work for muscular dystrophy.