Speedo, a staple at the Summer Olympics since 1932, is moving from the water to the ice.

The swimwear giant has taken the concepts and designs that made its built-for-speed suits de rigueur for competitive swimmers and designed uniforms for teams from the United States and other countries competing in the luge, skeleton and bobsled events at the upcoming Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Speedo is hoping its arrival at the Winter Games, arguably one of the world's most high-profile sporting events, will underscore its commitment to go beyond the pool. Concurrently, Speedo is kicking off a print, Internet and billboard advertising campaign, its biggest advertising blowout in seven years.

Speedo wants to send the message that its products are sleek, sexy and wear as well out of the pool as in. It has broadened its line to include footwear, underwear and exercise clothes.

By taking the brand into those categories, Sheree Waterson, who became Speedo president last year, hopes to take advantage of the growing performance sports apparel sector. The trade journal Sporting Goods Intelligence values that market at nearly $20 billion, more than five times the size of the swim industry.

"There is a need for an alternative to the current players in the marketplace," Waterson said. She's hoping that Speedo's activewear line, Axcelerate, can fill that niche.

Speedo is one of the swimwear brands under Commerce-based Warnaco Swim Group, which makes and distributes swimwear and holds the exclusive right to market the brand in North America. The swim group is a division of New York apparel heavyweight Warnaco Group Inc.

"It looks cool. It functions. It is an expansion of what we already do," Waterson said. Part of the challenge will be making consumers aware of the new direction, she said.

"I can't believe Speedo has flown under the radar for so long," Waterson said. "It is a brand with incredible name recognition, but at the same time we have not maximized the potential of that."

Waterson's background includes stints at Levi Strauss & Co., Wet Seal Inc. and Mervyn's LLC, and she brings a fashion sensibility to a brand for which chic has been secondary to performance. Part of maximizing the brand will be marketing it to image-conscious young men and women whose swim team days are behind them. These important trend-setting consumers aren't swayed by function alone: there are scores of brands promising they make their buyers jump higher and run faster.


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