Livestrong is offering a real-time case study of what an organization can do when one of its most public spokespeople suddenly needs to be separated from the brand.
If you’re unaware, seven-time Tour de France winner (and cancer survivor) Lance Armstrong has just been accused of doping in a report by the US Anti-Doping Agency, and this time, it seems like the organization has enough evidence to prove that Armstrong was a cheater.
So far, major sponsors like Nike and Anheuser-Busch have pulled sponsorship agreements with Armstrong.
Nike was particularly fast to cut the relationship, distancing the company from the cyclist faster than you’d try to distance yourself from the first zombie in a zombie apocalypse (yes, season two of The Walking Dead is on Netflix).
According to the story linked at the top, Nike had this to say:
But separating the apparel company and the beer vendor out of the equation, Livestrong is the organization that has the most to lose in this situation. Think about it; a Do-Good organization’s best-known Do-Gooder just got busted for cheating.
''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 does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.''
So far, Livestrong has announced that Armstrong is vacating his role as the Chairman of the organization. Armstrong says it’s because he wants to protect the organization. He also says he will maintain some role within the organization.
It makes sense.
The trick now, for Livestrong, will be to distance the organization far enough from Armstrong that people keep the warm-fuzzy feelings that the organization generates. It’s also important that they don’t stray too far away from Armstrong, because throwing him under the bus makes the organization look ungrateful.
In five years, professors at universities will have their students analyzing the case study of Livestrong. The only question remaining is whether students will be wearing yellow bracelets, or will have to ask “Who’s that?"