No More Armstrong for Nike and Livestrong

In the realm of sports PR, cheating scandals like doping are some of the most controversial events organizations have to deal with.  According to the PR News report, “Nike, Livestrong Put Kickstand Down on Relationship with Armstrong” last week Nike and Livestrong terminated their contracts with cycling legend Lance Armstrong, who has been the target of an ongoing doping investigation. Armstrong was hit with a lifetime ban from cycling back in August, but both Nike and his Livestrong foundation stood by him. However, recent revelations in the case have made being associated with Armstrong too detrimental to the organizations images forcing them to cut ties.  From a PR standpoint it is easy to see why they needed to disaffiliate themselves from Armstrong.  Nike, as an athletic company, cannot condone sports cheating of any kind.  Armstrong’s indiscretions were not a part of his personal life (think Tiger Woods) but rather directly impacted his athletic performance and achievements.  Although I think it has been widely regarded that releasing Armstrong was the right thing to do, from a PR perspective the message must be carefully crafted as they have had a successful, long standing relationship, and Nike will maintain its relationship with the Livestrong brand.  While I agree with much of what the PR News article said, I believe its final comment questioning, “exactly what company executives knew about Armstrong’s actions, and for how long” is likely a stretch.  Nike delivered a clear statement and explanation on the issue and I believe that commenting any further on the topic, especially in relation to possible insider information, would bring a lot more negative press.

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