Anyone that has taken an interest in the expanding field of “personal branding” must have taken notice of the now epic fall of Lance Armstrong. For the uninitiated, Armstrong was a seven time Tour de France winner. He had been plagued by doping allegations for many years as the public and sports world were generally skeptical of any individual that could so dominate which was, historically, one of the “dirtiest” sports in the world as far as doping was concerned. On October 10, 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency “released the hounds,” so to speak, by publishing an expansive and detailed decision regarding Armstrong’s various transgressions over the past decade.
Now, downfalls and damage to personal brands is nothing new (see some examples here), but the Lance Armstrong case presents a particularly interesting case study given his creation of and involvement with the LIVESTRONG brand. Apparently, contributions to LIVESTRONG have actually increased in the wake of Armstrong’s disgrace. Of course, it is still relatively early in this saga, but it will be interesting to see whether a brand with a now tarnished history is able to continue to excel despite its past.
In my opinion, this may be one of the rare circumstances where a brand is effectively able to transcend the foibles of its creator. I think the odds of it surviving if it were merely a commercial brand would be significantly lower. But because it is a highly visibile cancer charity that has indisputably done good, it may have a chance. If you use your evil powers to do good, you’re still doing good, right? I think society has reached a point where it is able to recognize the inherent flaws of humanity and, as a result, is willing to accept something less than pristine character in “heroes.” I guess whether this is the result of maturity or depressing cynicism remains to be seen.