Michael Phelps' marijuana flap has not diminished his commercial viability, if the latest Subway ad is any indication. The sandwich company stuck by Phelps even as other companies such as Kellogg's immediately moved to drop the Olympic champion after photographs of him hitting a bong became a media sensation, and now Subway is rolling out a new spot featuring Phelps entitled, maybe a touch ironically, "Be Yourself."
The AP argues that the Subway ad campaign "proves that Phelps' popularity as an endorser survived the publication of a photo showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe last February."
The Los Angeles Times' Dan Neil writes that Phelps' accomplishments "mock the moral hysteria that traditionally rains down on marijuana" and that Phelps' appearance in the ad campaign shows that the public's view on weed has clearly changed.
Culture deconstructionists will pick the spot apart for oblique references to the scandal. Phelps' chin whiskers are kind of bro-ish, for instance. He does look a trifle baked (could be the chlorine). AdWeek's Eleftheria Parpis wrote that "you can almost hear all the blunts lighting up in support as Sly & The Family Stone's 'Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)' kicks in."
And it really is too bad that the sandwich franchise's website is subwayfreshbuzz.com.
Even so, the Phelps-bong scandal seems to have been safely put to bed, and now that it has, it's worth asking, what have we learned? The consequences to Phelps -- actually, the lack of consequences -- suggest that something bigger than mere endorsement dollars is in play. It seems Phelps has moved the weed needle.