Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FASTSKIN: PRO Advertising

For people all around the world, the Olympics are a greatly anticipated event. With millions of eyes glued to television screens, hours are spent watching prime-time television, allowing viewers to be exploited by commercial advertisers. Products used in actual Olympic events grow in popularity: companies such as Speedo use successful athletes to promote their merchandise. In one such commercial, Speedo advertises the FASTSKIN FS-PRO competition suit using the athletic success of champion swimmer, Michael Phelps.

Though only thirty seconds long, Speedo, in their 2007 commercial featuring Michael Phelps, manages to send a clear message to viewers. Using energetic music that increases in intensity until the end of the video clip, the advertisement excites viewers not only aurally, but visually as well: the sight of an American flag on Phelps’ swim cap promotes patriotism, the show of Phelps’ muscular physique gives the ad a sexual appeal, and the use of the color red, a symbol of authority, represents Phelps’ domineering athletic success. Each of these examples subtly increases Phelps’ credibility as a representative for Speedo, giving consumers greater incentive to purchase a FASTSKIN suit.

Speedo further establishes ethos, a sense of credibility for their product, by presenting a brief résumé of Phelps’ accomplishments in the swimming pool. Periodically flashing text across the screen, Speedo lists Phelps’ achievements, immediately identifying him as one of the world’s greatest athletes. Citing his credentials in descending order, beginning with the 13th FINA World Championships 2007, to his 7 Olympic Gold Medals and 5 World Records, anyone who doesn’t know the identity of Michael Phelps can now be assured of his swimming prowess.* By listing Phelps’ accomplishments, Speedo seemingly says, “Michael is a winner. He wears our suit,” thus encouraging consumers that, in order to be winners like Michael, one must wear a FASTSKIN suit. In this manner, viewers come to believe and trust that Speedo’s product must be the best if Michael Phelps wears it.

In using Michael Phelps to endorse the FASTSKIN FS-PRO competition suit, however, Speedo presents a flawed argument with the fallacy of false authority. Phelps’ athletic ability in the swimming pool has nothing to do with the suit he wears. Granted, some swimming suits, depending on the material from which they are made, decrease water resistance and increase speed; however, wearing a fast suit does not guarantee becoming an Olympic Medalist. Furthermore, Phelps’ does not have any authority to officially endorse the FASTSKIN suit. While an expert in textiles can explain the reasoning behind the advantages of wearing a FASTSKIN suit as opposed to a polyester-spandex blend, Michael Phelps does not have a college degree, let alone education in chemical engineering or textiles. Because of Phelps’ false authority, consumers must keep in mind that swimming suits are only as fast as the person who wears them.

Sans music, flashing lights, and the Olympic Medalist, Michael Phelps, Speedo’s advertisement for the competition swimming suit, FASTSKIN FS-PRO, lacks credibility and appeal to convince consumers to purchase their product. Upon referencing Michael Phelps swimming achievements, however, Speedo gains authority and influence in the eyes of customers. Marketing the FASTSKIN suit with Michael Phelps’ endorsement, Speedo is indeed successful, selling their swimwear to viewers of the Olympics throughout the world.

*Note: This advertisement is dated. Phelps’ achievements-to-date include 14 Olympic Gold Medals, 6 World Records, and a 13th FINA World Championships 2009.

Michael Phelps Speedo Commercial. YouTube. YouTube, 2007. Web. 23 Sept. 2009.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hello Jessica,

    I agree on everything except on the lack of authority of Michael Phelps on the topic: it is true that he does not have a college degree in chemical engineering, but he is definitely someone who:
    1. Is very motivated to use whatever swimming suit will give him the best results in a competition
    2. Is in the position to judge which swimming suit works best for him, considering the amount of hours that he spends swimming every day. I might not be a mechanical engineer, but I can easily tell that a Ferrari is faster than a Ford, just by driving them

    Now, under the assumption that all swimming suits are created equal and that the Fastskin technology is just snake oil, then Phelps might just be endorsing the brand that pays him the highest amount.
    However, without such assumption we should agree that Michael Phelps has at least *some* authority in stating what gear works better for him.

    Ah, for the record, I am not a Speedo representative :)