Known for beating cancer while popularizing inspirational little rubber band bracelets emblazoned with messages, his celebrity romances and, of course, winning the Tour de France like a jillion times, Lance Armstrong is a brand with staying power. But as 60 Minutes releases new allegations that he took performance-enhancing drugs from his own teammates, both Armstrong the man and the brand could be in hot water.
So beloved is Armstrong as an icon, the teammates who made the allegations are being chastised as liars. Lance Armstrong himself has gone to minimal lengths to dismiss these accusations while carefully guarding his own brand and name. There is more at stake here than just a cycling career for Armstrong. His LiveStrong brand includes a self-help website, a line of shoes and clothes from Nike and other multi-million-dollar endorsement deals. Seen as a cancer survivor, as well as a Hercules of the sports world, Armstrong’s brand is trusted — as are his charitable efforts.
Consumers turned the other cheek to his divorce and infidelity rumors, but when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, fans have a zero tolerance. Convicted stars have a hard time bouncing back if the allegations are proved true. Just ask Marion Jones. Armstrong’s social media accounts like Twitter have been strangely devoid of any mention of the scandal. This could be strategic, however, given the possible legal repercussions. LiveStrong will have to play this carefully if they want to protect Lance’s Greek God with a Heart of Gold image. Acting like it isn’t happening might hurt the brand, but we’ll wait to see if it turns out to be true as the Feds dig around the case.
On the other hand, if Armstrong is let off the hook, 60 Minutes may be the brand in trouble. The news shows has teetered on the brink of unreliable journalism for a couple of years. Many believe the show is more interested in generating ratings than actually gathering facts.
One thing is certain: This battle has just heated up and neither brand will escape without a few battle scars.