Ryan Lochte beat Michael Phelps in a race. Pretty amazing just as a physical accomplishment, but even more exciting from my point of view, he’s very cool. As in getting loads of endorsements, has ‘the look’, and the kind of ‘grooves to his own drummer’ cool that kids will respond to. There was a great article in the New York Times on Sunday about how Ryan is being effectively marketed.
Everyone needs heroes and role models – but especially kids – and we need to develop a stable of water-safety heroes and market them effectively.
Look at campaigns which have successfully raised awareness, raised funding, and changed behavior – we need to attract a stable of high-profile celebrities and ‘names’ to rival the AIDS advocates. AIDS was able to attract actors and the fashion crowd early on because those populations were disproportionately devastated by the disease. The ‘good’ thing about drowning is that so many people are affected – directly or indirectly. The actors, athletes and musical artists are out there – we just need to mobilize them.
Here’s my wish list: Charlene Wittstock, the new Princess of Monaco and a former Olympic swimmer; Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge; Cullen Jones; Hawaii’s famed Watermen; the best of the surf lifesavers and surfers; tribal leaders in cultures which are entwined with water (Maori and other Pacific Islanders); religious leaders; Jack Johnson; Kelly Slater; Lovie Smith (Chicago Bear’s coach – his son almost drowned when he was 2); all the professional athletes who have saved a child from drowning; Navy SEALs and the Special Forces guys in other countries; Michael Phelps (minus the pot bust – let’s send the right messages to young kids); Aaron Peirsol (also a voice for clean water); and, of course, Ryan Lochte.
Who would you add to the list?