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Backlash Against Ralph Lauren’s Outsourced Olympic Uniforms

What could the American public possibly have against our Olympic athletes proudly displaying the red-white-and-blue of our flag on their opening ceremony uniforms? Perhaps it’s the fact that when ABC News took a look at the labels of the Ralph Lauren-designed attire, those labels read: “Made in China.” In fact, every piece of the uniforms, from the berets down to the shoes, was made overseas.

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According to ABC News, top American fashion designer Nanette Lepore said of the issue, “Why shouldn’t we have pride not only in the American athletes, but in the American manufacturers and laborers who are the backbone of our country…why was that not a consideration?”

When ABC News reached out to the U.S. Olympic Committee for comment, their response was simply that, “The U.S. Olympic team is privately funded and we’re grateful for the support of our sponsors. We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company.”

Since the news broke last week, the public backlash against Ralph Lauren has been building steam as people have taken to Twitter and Facebook to share their outrage. According to Advertising Age, Ralph Lauren is bending to the pressure, and while it’s too late to do anything about this year’s uniforms, they have vowed future change, promising to “lead the conversation within our industry and our government addressing the issue of increasing manufacturing in the United States.” They have also promised that the opening and closing ceremony Team USA uniforms for the 2014 Olympics will be made in the U.S.

But from a PR perspective, this may be too little too late from Ralph Lauren. As Wagner Kamakura, a professor of global marketing at Duke University told Advertising Age, “…whatever cost savings they attained by off-shoring the production of the uniforms was not worth the PR risks. Of course, 20/20 hindsight is easy, but someone over there should be paying attention to these PR implications.”

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