I had been wondering for quite a while why no swim gear brands had signed Michael Andrew yet. Of course, he is young and nobody knows what the future holds, but in marketing one would assume that world class speed is not the only thing that matters. Ideally, if you want to sell swim suits you want your brand to be talked about and that is something Michael Andrew has in spades. Plus, his age makes him more marketable for youth. As a matter of fact, if I were in the marketing department for these companies I would find some athletes living the dream in Masters swimming and sign them too, because if there is anything we can learn from triathlon it is that adult fitness is booming and we need to get creative to capitalize on that. (I mean, come on... If they sponsored me I could help them sell some serious suits to the older crowd, right? Everyone at masters meets would want to wear Adidas and horned helmets if I were their mascot. Masters swimmers don't care what the fast 25 year-old wears; they care what the kind of fast for his age guy having more fun than everybody else wears.)
Perhaps the big brands were afraid of the vitriol associated with the flaming comment wars on all the swim sites, but that doesn't seem right to me. I would think they would welcome it. It gets their product noticed.
My thoughts on it all?... I think that suit makers were afraid of the Andrew family and their controversial pioneering of USRPT. Think about it: we have a very vocal old-boys network who hates it and has had ties with suit companies and their decision makers for decades. Basically, by sponsoring Michael Andrew, a suit company would be bucking the system. They would be essentially endorsing the training that holds the potential to make those coaches they have had long relationships with seem like dinosaurs. I feel that suit companies had been afraid to rock the boat with some of their most powerful partners and that has caused them to miss out on a gem. Even if MA never wins an Olympic medal in his life he has already accomplished things in this sport that will be remembered for a long time. He has brought Ultra-Short Race Pace Training to the masses.
Michael Phelps said he wanted to change the sport, but really, what did he do to change anything? He got us more airtime on ESPN I guess, (tabloids too if anyone is really impressed by that,) and built a personal fan base, but hell, there are mommy-bloggers out there with a pretty large Twitter following as well. Michael Andrew is changing the game by showing us a new way to excel in this crazy sport, and he has been noticed enough to be well on his way toward accomplishing that mission before he has had any Phelpsian level international success.
So, what does this say about Adidas? It says that they are entering the suit market with guns blazing. Michael Andrew is not the only athlete they have signed since jumping into our sport, with Cesar Cielo, Allison Schmitt and more on board before MA, but adding Michael to their list is a brave step. Adidas is new to the game and owes no loyalty to anyone. They see our sport as a fresh and exciting market, and I think that their endorsement of Michael Andrew says that if he and his training have the potential to be a game changer for swimming, they want to be a part of it. They are sailing their ship into uncharted territory with no fear about what they will find in this strange land.
So, here's to Adidas. I hope I am right, and that this company has come into competitive swimming intending to make the other tech suit makers feel like they have missed an opportunity by maintaining the status quo. I feel this was a really good move.
Congrats to the Andrew family as well. This is a very exciting time for the sport of swimming and I hope that this partnership with Adidas serves to make your passionate pursuit to change the sport a more rewarding experience.