U.S. CYCLIST WILL WIN IN EURO ENDORSEMENTS: DRUG ALLEGATIONS, LIMITED INTEREST BY U.S. COMPANIES SEEN AS HURDLES

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Bicycling champion Lance Armstrong has now conquered the French Alps and the Pyrenees and, most importantly, near-terminal cancer. But now he's in another race-to grab the attention of American marketers.

At press time, Mr. Armstrong had all but won the famed Tour de France, on his way to becoming only the second American to win the annual three-week bike race.

Now Mr. Armstrong is looking to cash in. Since the start of the Tour de France, U.S. marketers have signed deals worth $450,000 for Mr. Armstrong's services, said his agent, Bill Stapleton, president of Creative Sports Ventures.

These deals come amid allegations in the French media that Mr. Armstrong's performance has been enhanced by drugs. Recently, the International Cycling Union found he used a prescription skin cream that contains small amounts of cortico-steroids, but not enough to lead to disqualification.

ALLEGATIONS CREATE SYMPATHY

Mr. Stapleton said he doesn't believe the allegations of drug use will affect Mr. Armstrong's marketability. "It's creating nationalism from a marketing standpoint. People now sympathize with him."

Starting today, the biggest of these deals, with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., will result in a page ad in USA Today. The pharmaceuticals marketer made the chemotherapy drugs that helped Mr. Armstrong recover from testicular cancer.

The ad features Mr. Armstrong on his bike with the copy: "This miracle brought to you by Bristol-Myers Squibb."

The print ad was produced by Blue Plate Design, the in-house agency of Capital Sports Ventures.

One of Mr. Armstrong's existing sponsors, Nike, began airing a TV spot July 22 showing footage of him on his bike with the singing of a French bistro vocalist in the background. The copy in the final frame: "According to the most recent statistics on cancer survival rates, Lance Armstrong is neither alive, nor is he competing in the Tour de France. Just do it." Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, handled the Nike ad.

He also has deals with Giro Sports, a bike-helmet marketer; new Web site Bike.com; and Oakley, for its sports sunglasses.

Mr. Armstrong also is a corporate speaker for Citibank and an endorser of BrainLab, a German computer system used to limit the invasiveness of brain surgery. He recently renewed his deal to ride with the U.S. Postal Service bicycle racing team, which will pay him $1 million annually and $2 million if he wins the Tour de France next year.

'HE'LL CASH IN'

But sports marketing executives say bicycling is a small, specialty sport in the U.S., so Mr. Armstrong likely will be limited to around $500,000 annually in endorsements deals, in addition to those he already had before the Tour de France.

One executive sees his best chances for long-term marketing deals with overseas companies.

"He'll cash in on the European side," said Tom George, senior VP of athlete

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