Back in February, we talked about the difficulties that can arise with celebrity spokespersons.
Today, champion cyclist Lance Armstrong stepped down as head of the LIVESTRONG Foundation™, the foundation that he created to fight cancer. In the wake of reports by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that allege doping by Armstrong and his team during the 1999-2005 period when they won the Tour de France seven times, Armstrong said his presence in the foundation was distracting from its mission.
In related news, Nike® dropped Armstrong from what used to be a multi-million dollar endorsement deal because of what the shoe company called “seemingly insurmountable evidence” against him.
Nike, like any wise investor, has diversified its portfolio of athlete-spokespersons and the loss of Armstrong, like the tarnished reputation of Tiger Woods before him, will likely not prove fatal to Nike’s brand. LIVESTRONG, on the other hand, has a tougher time ahead. Every yellow LIVESTRONG wristband is a reminder not just of the fight against cancer, but also of the embattled Armstrong.
As communicators, we should take a lesson from LIVESTRONG’s dilemma and remember that a celebrity’s fall from the pedestal can take an organization down with it.
What do you think LIVESTRONG should do? Should it take an active stance to distance itself from its founder, or simply ignore the past and start afresh as if nothing happened? Does it need to undergo a complete rebrand? Share your thoughts in the comment section of this post.