Bye Brand Names – Sports & Sponsors
I’m not going to pretend I am some sort of oracle about cycling, but I think everyone has an opinion on the Lance Armstrong case. Even my housemate came in from work the other night not quite believing it and he defiantly knows nothing!
With the extraordinary allegations surrounding Armstrong, he cannot go back on his stance as the innocent party. Maybe this is why it has escalated so much. Perhaps there are some personal vendetta’s or shades of a ‘whitch hunt’ but denying it has arguably prompted the doping officials to peruse the case even more and wipe out the farcical clean cut image. Armstrong has no option but to continue his denial because he’s in too deep.
There is no doubting Armstrong as a dedicated athlete. You don’t simply dope and win. He trained his ass off. Everyones favourite football thug Joey Barton even had a rare moment of agreement on his twitter account:
Armstrong has undeniably done a hell of a lot for charity – Livestrong. A foundation he started after overcoming testicular cancer himself.
However, from a brand point of view when sportsmens images are tarnished they take with them their brand associations. A look at brands and how they stand by their most prized assets is interesting especially in cases like this.
Nike, maybe considered a more edgy brand, have stood by Tiger Woods throughout his off field actions, although that was nothing to do with cheating (in sport anyway!). Kellogg’s cereal were quick to drop American swimmer Michael Phelps after images of him hitting a bong were revealed in News of The World.
The good guys like Roger Federer are not earning $54m per year without reason. Only $9m of this is actual prize money, the other $45m comes from endorsements. His record speaks for itself and his image is squeaky clean, which is why Gillette, Credit Suisse, Rolex, Mercedes Benz & Nike are top brands associating themselves with the top athletes. They are safe. Tennis players do pretty well to be fair, according to Forbes!
Floyd Landis, an easily forgettable name from cycling, won the 2006 Tour De France but was later found guilty of doping and was quickly dropped by hearing aid manufacturer Phonak. This scared off Phonak so much they left sports sponsorship for good and went into the arts! Landis, like Armstrong denied the allegations to the hilt until he eventually admitted taking drugs his entire career. He was also early to call out Armstrong about his doping antics but was shouted down after his own credibility was shot. There’s a piece on Landis and sports sponsorship here on Brand Channel.
Probably most scary of all is the case of Marion Jones. She lost her 5 medals from the Sydney 2000 games after finally admitting drug use. However she then served 6 months in jail for making false statements. Armstrong has been in court in Dallas denying his allegations.
If there is ever a way back for Armstrong, he needs to fully admit his history of drugs and explain everything in detail. It would be a hard justice to be remembered as a cheat rather than an inspirational figure in and outside of sport. The Tour De France and Armstrong are synonymous with each other and even though his name will no longer appear on the winners roll, it’ll be hard to totally re-write history and forget about Armstrong’s achievements all together.