Things have to be pretty far gone before Nike bails on an endorser. After the
40-year old cancer survivor announced he was dropping his appeal to
the agency's doping charges, the Swoosh stood by him the way it
stood by Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant.
The Lance Armstrong Foundation's LiveStrong campaign has raised
nearly $500 million to fight cancer. Paul Chibe, A-B's VP-U.S.
marketing, cited Mr. Armstrong's cancer work as one of the reasons
the brewer's standing by him.
"Our partnership with Lance remains unchanged," Mr. Chibe said
in a statement Friday. "He has inspired millions with his athletic
achievement and his commitment to helping cancer survivors and
Oakley said in a statement it "supports its athletes who respect
and honor the ethics of sports until proven otherwise."
That's the good news for Mr. Armstrong. The bad news is his
positive ratings with consumers were dropping, and his negatives
climbing, even before the latest controversy.
The public that formerly lionized Mr. Armstrong were tweeting
hashtags like #CheatStrong and #LiveWrong on Twitter Friday. The
cyclist should expect a tougher time landing new contracts and
renewing current corporate sponsors come contract time, warn
Henry Schafer, exec VP of Marketing Evaluations, which measures
celebrity Q scores, said Mr. Armstrong's positive Q scores have
dropped by two-thirds since he won his last Tour de France in 2005.
His negative Q scores have more than doubled since then -- and for
the first time they outweigh his positive scores.
Said Mr. Shafer: "He's been in a downward spiral. All these
doping allegations are not helping him by any stretch of the
imagination. I know he's going to rest his laurels on the
LiveStrong organization he founded. But I don't think it will be
Meanwhile, sponsors such as Nike might have to deal with
problems they didn't know they had, said Mike Paul, founder of MGP
& Associates PR.
Social media has given athletes a bully pulpit to share their
personal views. For example, what if another Swoosh endorser
hammers Mr. Armstrong as a cheater on Twitter or in interviews, Mr.
"Someone might tweet something that hurts the Nike brand. You
better line up your athletes and give them some talking points,"
Mr. Paul said.
Mr. Armstrong maintained his innocence in a statement, saying he
was tired of defending himself against a "one-sided and unfair"
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say,
'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now."