Lance Armstrong has just been fired by sponsor Nike, which also produced Livestrong merchandise. How many other marketers can afford public association with an athlete accused of cheating and lying?
Aside from Nike, Armstrong, one of the highest paid athletic endorsers, has deals with Anheuser-Bush for Michelob Ultra, Radio Shack, Oakley sunglasses and Trek bicycles.
"Nike hangs in longer than most. Look at how they hung in with Tiger Woods. But for a performance brand like Nike to continue an association with Lance Armstrong makes no sense," said David Srere, co-president and CEO at brand strategists Siegel + Gale.
"He doesn't just do damage to himself. He damages other people, he damages a sport. It's like concentric circles of brand disaster."
Armstrong, who still plans to attend this Friday's Livestrong event in Austin, Texas, has been tone deaf in his response to the public furor after the release of the incriminating 200-page report from the US Anti-Doping Agency report.
On Oct 11, the day of its release, he tweeted an apparent response: "What am I doing tonight? Hanging with my family, unaffected, and thinking about this. #onward." The tweet linked to a Livestrong post about the upcoming 15th anniversary events.
"In this age of transparency, in an age where authenticity is actually making a comeback, arrogance is not a characteristic of a great brand," said Srere. "There are a whole host of foundations, cancer charities where you can decide to give your money. They're all doing good."
Armstrong finally acknowledged the worsening situation by issuing his Livestrong resignation, saying: "To spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship."
Srere's brand reputation advice to Armstrong: Disappear from public view for a while, meet with a good crisis management team and try to figure out a way to make something good come out of this situation.
- Via Adweek