What happens when the face of your non-profit organization is publicly disgraced?
That’s what Livestrong faced when cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to using illegal substances throughout his career. He was stripped of his Tour de France titles and his affiliation with the organization that he helped to start. Call in the crisis team because like so many celebrity brand endorsements before, the man’s revelation brought the brand under a negative spotlight, too.
With the non-profit organization separated from Lance Armstrong, Livestrong has rebranded as Livestrong Foundation with a new logo and a new focus on the foundation, not the man who was once the face of the foundation. The old and new logos are shown above, and most people probably won’t even remember that “Foundation” wasn’t part of the logo in its previous version. However, the redesign does better position the brand away from Lance Armstrong. It’s subtle and simple, but it works.
In a speech (you can follow the link to read the transcript) from Executive VP of Operations from Livestrong Foundation, Andy Miller, which was delivered at the annual Livestrong “State of the Foundation” address on February 28, 2013, the point was made that the rebranding is part of the foundation’s efforts, “towards becoming more us, more clear, and doing more work.” In other words, Livestrong Foundation wants to become “more us” and “less Lance.” Andy said:
“We accepted the apology he made to us in order to move on and we remain grateful for what he decided to create and helped build. As the world poses the questions, “Is the LIVESTRONG Foundation bigger than its founder? Will it survive?” The answer is a resounding yes. Our success has never been based on one person — it’s based on the patients and survivors we serve every day, who approach a cancer diagnosis with hope, courage and perseverance.”
Livestrong Foundation is taking the rights steps to move past its affiliation with Lance Armstrong, but finding new ways to recoup earnings from merchandise sales will be a tough battle. The “cool” factor that many people felt when they wore a bracelet, jacket, or other item with the Livestrong logo on it has disappeared with the fall of Lance Armstrong’s celebrity status.
The Livestrong Foundation has a tough road ahead of it and changes will need to be made internally to get through this time, but at the end of the day, the organization’s mission is an important one. Hopefully, it will continue to navigate through the negative publicity it’s facing right now and come out on the other side with a stronger brand than before.
I think Andy summed up why this brand can survive a celebrity disaster quite well in his speech when he said:
“The real reason the Foundation took root is that it touched a chord deep in all of us. It inspired us to take action! But we didn’t do it for Lance. We did it for our loved ones. Our husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. We did for our children. We did it for our friends and neighbors. We did it for ourselves. Because we believe in life! We believe living every minute of it with every ounce of our being. And that you must not let cancer take control of it!”
Repositioning the brand away from “the Lance Armstrong charity” and toward “the charity that helps people with cancer” should be the Livestrong Foundation’s top priority. And of course, avoiding dependencies on celebrity endorsements and spokespeople should be at the top of the list of things not to do again.
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