Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Lance Armstrong, and the Reputation Equity of Livestrong

Livestrong As It Exists Today At Risk
Lance Armstrong, and the Reputation Equity of Livestrong Bradley C Bower/Associated Press

Lance Armstrong is a product.

A product with a reputation.

And now Livestrong, which owes its 16 years of existence to Armstrong, is discovering the price of its ongoing connection and public association with its founder, as its own reputation equity begins to diminish.

The perils of an organization intertwined with the reputation of an individual, one early on seen as an awe-inspiring sports hero via what we now know was an inauthentic narrative, come into clear relief in an in-depth report appearing in the New York Times.

What we learn is that while Livestrong's stated purpose is to "fight to improve the lives of people affected by cancer," as described in detail in the organization's Manifesto "inspired by Lance Armstrong, one of the toughest cancer survivors on the planet," the unspoken strategy was not so pure and unselfish as Livestrong might prefer most believe.

Rather, Livestrong was founded, in part, to serve as a vehicle to promote the Lance Armstrong brand so that he might become a "crossover spokesman" and celebrity with wide commercial appeal beyond the constraints of his sport and his disease.

Armstrong succeeded in his goal, and Livestrong benefitted.

Now the clock is ticking on how long the reservoir of goodwill may endure for Livestrong, and whether its reputation equity will be diminished such that the organization itself suffers through the risk of intact survival, which ironically may be no better than the five-year survival rate of the advanced stage three cancer from which Lance Armstrong recovered in 1997.

Livestrong issued a predictable response to the New York Times report. Predictable in its defensiveness rather demonstrating steps the organization's leadership is taking to stop the harm to its reputation.

Until Livestrong changes and takes control of the narrative about itself - until it begins to own the conversation - it will continue to dissipate it's reputation equity.

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