Tara Greco is senior director in APCO Worldwide’s corporate responsibility practice.
I’ve posted several times about the impact Lance Armstrong’s steroid use would/could/should have on the foundation he started, LIVESTRONG. I’ve been following the series of announcements over the last 48 hours—Nike and Radio Shack discontinuing sponsorships of Lance, Anheuser-Busch stating it will not renew at the end of its 2012 contract and Lance himself stepping down as the Chair of the LIVESTRONG board of directors.
As a communications professional, I agree that Lance did the right and responsible thing for the organization. His personal drama was causing a distraction for LIVESTRONG and taking important attention and resources away from mission-focused work. He is giving the Foundation space to distance itself from the doping conversation and helping protect it from future damage. Reputationally, I still do not believe that the Foundation will take a big hit. They are preparing to celebrate a 15th anniversary and in that time have proven to be a valuable resource and advocate for cancer patients and their families. They are substantive, well-managed and have a well-known and well-respected brand that does not rely on Lance.
The foundation’s financial health, however, may take a hit from Lance’s personal and professional decisions. About 30 percent of revenue for LIVESTRONG comes from cause-marketing and licensing (read: deals with Lance’s sponsors). Now that many of those relationships have been discontinued, LIVESTRONG needs to identify other streams of revenue. Hopefully the leadership has been considering how to diversify the funding pool and can take the necessary steps to shift funding sources with minimal disruption to the programs.
Personally, I’m rooting for LIVESTRONG. They, and Lance, have inspired me to stay tough and positive in my own battle with cancer and I know their support and message is invaluable to others (See: LIVESTRONG manifesto). TJ Quinn at ESPN has been covering the Lance/steroid story since it started. In one of his segments yesterday, Quinn said, “I can’t tell you how many people I know that wear those yellow wristbands…people wanted so badly to believe in this guy.” Count me in that camp. Still. Despite all of the information that has been uncovered about the steroids. And, one of TJ’s twitter followers (Tim Clough, @coopersam), so perfectly captured the reason why on Twitter: “blame me or not but [my] head is going in the sand. He inspired my mom to fight cancer. The rest means nothing.”