Strategy Formulation and Implementation

Strategy Formulation and Implementation.

Strategy Formulation and Implementation

Michael Phelps stands out as one of the most decorated athletes in the world, who started winning medals at a tender age of 15 years. He became the youngest US athlete to participate in an international Olympics in a span of seven decades when he participated in Sydney Olympics in 2000. The American swimmer has taken part in five Olympics in a row, with the latest being the Rio Olympics, where he officially announced his retirement from Olympics. At the age of 31 years, Michael has won 23 Olympic titles and 28 medals, a record that no other athlete has managed. Through his manager Peter Carlisle, Phelps strategy to build his exposure in the real and virtual world helped him attract sponsorship from some of the best brands in the world.


In 2008, Michael’s agent reported that the athlete could earn $100 Million over his lifetime. Ahead of the Beijing Games, Phelps made $5 million annually from major corporates including Visa, A&T, Omega, Speedo, and Powerbar (Rosewater, 2008). Michael and his manager mapped out a goal of winning a gold medal at each of the events during the Beijing games. His eight gold medals win at the Beijing Summer Olympics Games in 2008 made him a global brand, beating fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s record (Rosewater, 2008). After becoming a world record holder, Michael turned his sponsorship deals and gold medals into a cash stream of over $100 Million and invested theme in various business activities. Despite his sudden rise to stardom, Michael continued interacting with his fans through Facebook, Youtube, and Blogs and this increased his popularity. The power of social networks hugely contributed to Phelps become a global brand and was a source of admiration for future athletes worldwide.


Michael’s team outlined a strategy to gradually build up Phelps ahead of Beijing Olympics by taking advantage of his unique physical endowment and capabilities. The team also mapped out a plan to prepare him physically and mentally for the challenges ahead by getting Phelps involved in various workouts. Of concern to the team was his long thin torso, arm span of 204cm that was disproportionate to his 1.93 meters height and his short legs despite his height. Bob Bowman, Michael’s longtime personal coach, recommended that spends at least 6 hours a day in the pool before the competition as a way of mentally preparing him for the Olympics. Also, Peter Carlisle developed a detailed strategy for Michael to follow before, during and after the swimming competition.

Michael’s team implemented AFI framework to achieve their goals, by analyzing Michael’s situation and formulating strategies to help Michael win and gain global recognition (Rothaermel, 2016). The team aimed to beat Mark Spitz’s 36-year record when he won seven gold in 1970 Munich Olympic Games. The strategy worked out in five Olympics in a row, with the recent one being Rio Olympics where he scooped five gold medals and one silver. The team understood the value of Phelps brand and aided him in making decisions that will not ruin his reputation. For example, after the Michael was photographed using a device associated with marijuana users, he made a press statement acknowledging his inappropriate behavior and promising to regain their trust.

Despite tainting his image, Phelps chose not to sue the person who released the pictures to the media. He focused on winning during the London Summer Olympics and getting additional medals and titles. Even after losing a corporate endorsement, Phelps affirmed the other corporates of working hard to rebuild his value and did not disappoint. He won six medals including four gold medals and two silver medals at the London Summer Olympics in 2012, regaining corporate and public support.



            After the Beijing Olympics, a British magazine published a photograph of Phelps holding a “Bong” that threatened his career. He was at the University of South Carolina for his girlfriend’s birthday when one of the attendees took a photo of him holding a device used to smoke marijuana. Although it was a social function, Michael failed to avoid being associated with unethical behavior that would tarnish his brand name. Immediately after the photo surfaced, Kellogg’s canceled their endorsement contract, since the picture would taint their image as well. If Kellogg’s never reacted after the picture surfaced, then their clients would associate the company with the behavior of the athlete, and they would cease buying their food products. The incident affirms that corporates and celebrities should maintain and increase their brand value over time, by not associating themselves with unethical behavior. The photo of Phelps holding a device used by marijuana users displayed unethical behavior especially for a celebrity person like him.

Athletes are brands, and if they get involved in activities that go divergent to their brand, then this upset their capability to monetize their image (Rosewater, 2008). Apart from the cancellation of Kellogg’s endorsement, Michael also suffered a blow after the USA Swimming panel banned him from competition for three months. The three months period would have been a deal-breaker for him to add to his collection of medals and Olympic titles. However, his team helped him make a comeback after his agent released a media statement regretting the scandal and apologizing to his fans and the public. Phelps acknowledged his involvement with bang substance as an inappropriate behavior that people would not expect from him. He assured his fans and the public that he would not be involved in such behavior again (Papa, 2016). Phelps’ approach to the scandal helped him retain other corporates that had endorsed his brand name. He vowed to work hard in the upcoming Olympic competition to regain public trust. Since then, he went on to win at the London Summer Olympics in 2012 and Rio Olympics in 2016 before retiring from the Olympic competitions.


            The 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil marked the climax of Phelps career as an American swimmer for 16 years. At the age of 31 years, he won five gold medals and silver, adding to his large collection of medals. With 23 titles and 28 medals, Phelps record is unlikely to be beaten in the future. At the Rio Olympics, the audience at the venue gave him an ovation as a great Olympian of all time. In his hometown, the residents named a street “The Michael Phelps Way” to celebrate his victory and inspire young athletes (Ruane, 2016). The Rio record opened a new chapter in his life; to train and encourage young swimmers to beat his record. He started a foundation in his name aiming to promote health and fitness among American children. After his retirement plans in 2012 failed, he had his eyes on the Rio Olympics to finish with additional gold medals so that he can be content with his retirement. His strategy is now to nurture young talents through his foundation by increasing awareness of swimming as a sporting activity and promoting healthy living.

During the 16 years long career as an American swimmer, Michael Phelps stands out as the most decorated athlete and a great athlete of all time. He has managed to build a large following in the real and virtual world, by maintaining contact with his large fan base. By creating a successful brand name, Phelps attracted huge corporate endorsements who wanted to be associated with him. Phelps management team contributed significantly to the multiple Olympic victories by formulating a winning strategy to help him be consistent during his 16 years career. The team analyzed Phelps physical endowment and outlined a training regime to aid in physical and mental preparedness ahead of competitions. The team also helped Phelps make a comeback after the “Bong” scandal despite losing one corporate endorsement.



Papa, A. (2016, 08 15). Michael phelps the greatest olympian ever smokes pot and drinks booze. Retrieved from

Rosewater, A. (2008, August 19). Agent: Phelps could earn $100 million over lifetime. Retrieved

Rothaermel, F. (2016). Strategic management. New York: McGraw-Hill Management.

Ruane, M. (2016, June 9). Testing the limits. Retrieved from


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Strategy Formulation and Implementation

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