Lance Armstrong’s colossal career brand failure

Jan 16th, 2013 | By | Category: News, Professional branding

By Joe Grimm
Michigan State University
School of Journalism

Lance Armstrong on bicylce, blue jersey

Lance Armstrong in 2002./Benutzer Hase photo licensed under Creative Commons

Lance Armstrong has destroyed his carefully built career brand and will likely go down as one of the worst brand failures in history.

Plenty of others have destroyed their own career brands: Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer, Bernie Madoff. Some have recovered to a degree. That seems unlikely for Armstrong. History will put him in the company of brand failures, rather than in the company of world-class athletes or survivors.

Even before the airing of his interview with Oprah Winfrey, which he asked for, it was being declared a branding failure.

Always the architect of his image, Armstrong did all this to himself. He illustrates that the most toxic enemy of a brand is not a competitor, but the person or thing the brand stands for.

The lack of sincerity and authenticity that people are now seizing upon illustrates the importance of branding with integrity.

Rather than eliciting sympathy and forgiveness, Armstrong’s Oprah appearance is drawing venom and accusations. By the end of this long week, he will wish he had kept his mouth shut.

And he has no one to blame but himself. A brand is a promise. It is a declaration of one’s character. It is reinforced with consistent messaging. So, one cannot put on a career brand lightly or for ulterior motives.

Armstrong swore he was honest. Now people are turning his “Live Strong” wristbands into “Lie Strong.”

Yes, Armstrong admits this week that he lied about doping. But that is old news. What people are really angry about is that he lied about who he is, what he stands for and what be believes in.

Armstrong betrayed people’s trust. And it is harder to restore that than to bring back some cycling medals or a fortune in endorsements.

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