Michael Phelps won six gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics along with two bronze. He won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He won four more gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, plus two silvers. He did all of that wearing Speedos.
But he won’t be wearing Speedo clothing if he makes it to the 2016 Games in Rio.
Phelps — who retired after London, only to announce a comeback in April of this year — signed a new deal with Aqua Sphere, a swim clothing and equipment company. Until recently, Aqua Sphere hadn’t put much emphasis on the elite swim market, but it now has the greatest swimmer of all-time as its chief spokesman.
“This is huge for us,” said CEO Dan Rockwell. “We’re relatively speaking a newcomer.”
Aqua Sphere already has a suit approved by FINA, the governing body for competitive swimming, that Phelps will wear in competition starting next year. The company has worked with Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman to design and tweak the suit.
Perhaps more importantly for the manufacturer, though, is the performance swimwear that Phelps will help design, giving it a new high-profile product line. The new line won’t be available in 2014, but Rockwell hinted that it will likely be available early next year.
“What we’re not going to do is just take existing products and slap his name on it,” he said.
Phelps’ agent, Peter Carlisle, said the ability to be more than just a paid endorser was important for Phelps and Bowman.
“They can focus on some of the competitive products, but they can also promote the sport more generally,” he said.
Rockwell agreed that this deal created an opportunity for the Phelps and Bowman that they might not have had at a bigger manufacturer. How much the deal is worth was not disclosed.
“There’s things that Michael and Bob want to do for swimming,” he said. “They want to create products that they have input into.”
In addition to the line of competitive swimwear, Phelps will also be working with Aqua Sphere, a subsidiary of Aqualung, a French company, on a line of learn-to-swim products. Training aids and products for keeping kids afloat while they’re learning are among the possibilities.
Phelps and his foundation have done a lot of work with the Boys and Girls Club, Carlisle said, not only to get kids into swimming but to promote basic water safety. With the Aqua Sphere’s partnership, he hopes that the programs the foundation hosts will go a step further and solve a problem for kids getting into swimming — the need for equipment.
“It’s such an obvious need that is so easily addressed if a company shares that vision.” he said.