July 17, 2014

Life After Lance Armstrong: The Livestrong Foundation Rebrands

by Guest Blogger

Now that the World Cup is over, the eyes of the sports world will focus on the Tour de France. The Tour has reached its halfway point, and there has been no shortage of excitement so far. As I mentioned in my last post, Tour favorite (and last year's winner) Chris Froome crashed out in stage 5. After that, 2-time Tour winner Alberto Contador was expected to win "le maillot jaune". However, Contador crashed hard in stage 10 and fractured his shin, which caused him to abandon the race. Italy's Vincenzo Nibali is now viewed as the presumptive favorite.

No Americans are considered serious contenders to win this year's Tour de France. Of course, that's a far cry from the early 2000's when Lance Armstrong was dominating cycling's most prestigious event. 1.7 million American TV viewers watched Armstrong win the last of his seven Tour de France titles in 2005, which was a ratings record. Check out these highlights from the 2005 Tour:

Armstrong announced his retirement from cycling shortly thereafter to focus on his philanthropy, the Livestrong Foundation, which provides support for people affected by cancer. The foundation, formerly known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation, was established in 1997 after Armstrong's well-documented recovery from testicular cancer. The "Livestrong" brand was launched in 2003, and it was a spectacular success. To protect the brand's uber cool image, the foundation secured federal trademark protection for its valuable intellectual property. The foundation owns 39 federal trademark registrations, including several registrations to protect its famous yellow wristbrands:

07 17 14 Blog Livestrong Wristband

The key to the foundation's success - its close association with Armstrong - also proved to be its achilles heel. John H. Richardson's excellent piece in Esquire documents in exquisite detail how the doping scandal that embroiled Lance Armstrong sent shockwaves through the foundation. Donations dropped 35% in less than a year. To stop the bleeding, the foundation did the unthinkable: it pushed Lance Armstrong out in November 2012.

After pushing Armstrong out, the foundation tried to reinvent itself as a standalone organization. This included a "subtle but substantive" rebranding effort that featured a new logo. Despite the rebranding, the foundation's 2013 budget was 10% less than its 2012 budget. The foundation did not release its 2014 budget, therefore, it is unknown whether it has been able to reverse its flagging fortunes. Tellingly, according to John H. Richardson's article in Esquire, the foundation recently indicated that it would welcome Lance Armstrong back. Despite the foundation's rebranding efforts, perhaps it really isn't bigger than just one man.

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