Lance Armstrong: How will his Indiscretions Impact Brands?

Lance Armstrong has had a rough couple months – and this week it seems as if he has hit rock bottom.

Nike just announced this morning that they are cutting ties with the cyclying superstar whose image has been forever destroyed thanks to the uncovering of the “most sophisticated” doping scheme in the history of sports:

“Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” Nike said in a statement. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.”

Armstrong had an announcement of his own this morning – he has stepped down as the chairman of the Livestrong foundation, his cancer fighting charity. Thankfully, Nike will continue suporting the Livestrong foundation despite its unraveled relationship with Armstrong.

ImageI have to admit – I was saddened when I heard about the doping. I never cared about cyclying, but I appreciated the symbol of hope he had become for people around the world fighting cancer. I think you could liken the situation to when Magic Johnson came out as being HIV positive and brought that discussion to the general populace in a more constructive way.

Did Nike make the right move? Absolutely. They really didn’t have much of a choice in this matter. What I appreciated about Nike is that they didn’t end their relationship with Armstrong right away when the allegations were brought up or even immediately after Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France victories.

They waited until it seemed absolutely clear that Armstrong was not innocent in this matter. I think that it demonstrated loyalty and excellent decisionmaking.

Nike will be fine. But what about the Livestrong foundation?

They have raised $500 million over the years to support the fight against cancer. Even with Lance literally separating himself from the organization, will his reputation taint public support for it?

This is still to be seen. If I had to guess, I’d say you probably won’t see as many people wearing those bright yellow bracelets anymore.

One comment

  1. I agree on Nike. Not that I agree with all of their practices, but as far as brands go, so many companies are so wrapped up in their image that the minute they hear something that could taint their image they would have broken away. The fact that they waited until all the facts were in and politely distanced themselves shows integrity, and reflects the kind of loyalty we wish we could see in other people. I love how Nike has attached themselves to sportsmanship and human achievement vs. just “winning”.

    Livestrong could be saved with the right leadership, in my opinion. Obviously its original appeal of being tied to a real person is tainted, but the dream of triumphing over cancer (and as you mentioned, the $500 million in support) is still something worth fighting for. So instead of tying the brand to the man himself, they could tie their brand to the dream, reminding people that just because one person failed to live up to that dream, doesn’t mean we should stop trying to fight for it.

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