Armstrong’s Brand at the Finish Line

 Armstrongs Brand at the Finish Line

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Lance Armstrong

So, Lance Armstrong doesn’t have nine lives after all. The US Anti-Doping Agency report released last week implicates Armstrong yet again in using banned substances. Previously, he’s denied everything; recently, he gave up all seven of his Tour de France medals, and yesterday, Armstrong announced that he would stand down as Chairman of his Livestrong cancer charity. Yet the rumbles continue.

With a net worth estimated at $125 million, Armstrong is one of the world’s best-paid athletes, pulling in over $15 million in endorsements a year. Despite years of allegations, his sponsors stuck with him. His agent recently told the media that Armstong’s primary sponsors have been “incredibly supportive,” with Nike confirming its endorsement, given that Armstrong had been “unwavering” regarding his innocence.

That all changed yesterday. Less than a week after pledging support, Nike has had a volte face. “Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” said a spokesperson. Anheuser-Busch, another sponsor, immediately fell into line, as have others, including RadioShack, Trek bicycles, and Oakley sunglasses. Nothing can change the direction in which this train is headed.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Lance Armstrong; with each sponsor that  falls away, the USADA report gains in credibility. Is there a Plan B?

The PR Takeaway: When one domino falls, they ALL do. Having to hand back his awards and stand down from his charity as Chairman, Armstrong is hoping to avoid the complete collapse of the Armstrong brand. Now that his sponsorship deals are null and void, he may want to think about a radical rethink and complete change of his legal strategy and start afresh from there. Next step: start studying how fallen heroes rehabilitate their reputations. Livestrong may hold the key to his ultimate PR salvation. What Lance Armstrong now needs most urgently is time out of the public spotlight to regroup and think what a new legal and PR strategy might bring him.

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Is there any way Lance Armstrong can save his reputation? Give us your PR Verdict!

Bachmann’s Accusations Backfire

 Bachmanns Accusations Backfire

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michele Bachmann.

Michele Bachmann, former Republican nominee, recently brought to the nation’s attention her concern that foreign agents are infiltrating the very highest levels of office in the US. This is her first major media moment since announcing application for dual citizenship (her husband is Swiss) and quickly retracting after embarrassingly negative outcry from her constituency. Signing a letter she made public, she claimed that the infiltration of the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood was possibly underway and claimed that two prominent Muslims — Huma Abedin, the State Department aide to Hilary Clinton, and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota — are tied to the organization.

Bachmann, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has used her position there to lend gravitas to her allegations. But the “ouch” moment came when the committee’s chairman told USA Today, “That kind of assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record.” Hmmm… What now, Michele?

Everybody ran for cover. Sen. John McCain denounced the accusation from the Senate floor and joined members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, shutting this news event down. Republican party officials hardly rushed to Bachmann’s defense, with her own state party Chairman “not available” for any elaboration. So far, Bachmann’s office has denied repeated followup media requests. Are they hoping this will simply go away?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for a mess that still needs to be cleared up. Saying nothing won’t wipe the slate.

The PR Takeaway: As mommie used to say: Clean up your mess! With Bachmann’s accusations described as loony by the media and her congressional colleagues on both sides (who says the government can’t agree?), it is clear this PR missile is only gaining speed in the wrong direction. One voter was quoted in the coverage as saying Bachmann is the “Only one telling the truth” but then again he also claimed that President Obama goes to Martha’s Vineyard to observe Ramadan….. Before Bachmann positions herself as an unequivocal fringe outsider, it might be time to retract, apologize, and simply say this was a mistake. Until she does, the issue is unlikely to go away.

What can Michele Bachmann do to save political face now? Give us your PR Verdict!