Livestrong Staying The Course Despite PED Reports; Sponsors Still Back Armstrong
Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman said the organization's goal is to "keep fighting for the mission" of helping cancer victims, despite recent reports of Lance Armstrong's PED use, according to Jim Vertuno of the AP. Ulman and other leaders with the charity are "banking on the idea that the good done by Armstrong the cancer fighter will overcome any damage to the organization done by the fall of Armstrong the athlete." Ulman said, "His leadership role doesn't change. He's the founder. He's our biggest advocate and always will be." Vertuno notes Armstrong cancelled a public appearance in Chicago Friday, but Ulman said that he will "be a big part of several days' worth of events in Austin next week" to celebrate the foundation's 15th anniversary. DC-based crisis and issues management firm Levick Exec VP Gene Grabowski "suggested Armstrong step away from his public role for a while." Grabowski said, "If the organization is that important to Lance, he might consider handing the reins to another high-profile person" (AP, 10/12).
STILL GOT HIS BACK? In DC, Liz Clarke notes several marketing experts said that Armstrong "may well lose his handsome corporate backing from Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Trek and others once existing contracts expire." And "given the damning details USADA has compiled ... Armstrong likely won’t forge any new corporate deals." Sports Business Group President David Carter said, "They may let those contracts lapse, rather than cut him immediately. They may choose not to feature him (in advertising or promotional campaigns) until the contracts run out. But for anyone to align with him now, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense until the smoke clears." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Managing Dir Paul Swangard said, "Lance as a brand is probably just not worth the trouble for anyone who is not currently attached to him" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/12). TIME magazine's Sean Gregory noted Nike's decision to support Armstrong "surprises some sports business experts." N.Y.-based sports marketing consultant Robert Tuchman said, "I thought they would have dropped him, to be frank." Gregory: "Nike is sending mixed messages, a problem for any brand. The company might make some of the best sportswear on the planet, and strive to do good around the world. But now, Nike is getting attention" for an anti-doping ad in '01 in which Armstrong says, "Everyone wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day" (TIME.com, 10/11). A-B VP/Marketing Paul Chibe Thursday said, "Our current relationship with Lance remains unchanged" (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 10/11).
GOING HOLLYWOOD: In L.A., Steven Zeitchik notes Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney said that he has been "feverishly working" on his Armstrong film "in the wake of recent developments." The film, three years in the making, "is being financed and produced by Sony Pictures." Gibney said, "We're deep into the edit. Sometimes editing can take a while, but I'm hoping the movie will be finished in the next few months" (L.A. TIMES, 10/12).