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Lance Armstrong: Phoenix or Forever Fraud?

Posted in Branding, Goodwill, Guest Bloggers, Mixed Bag of Nuts

Randall Hull, The Br@nd Ranch®

There is much to admire about Lance Armstrong. Really. Cancer survivor, founder of Livestrong, professional triathlete at age 16, successful professional cyclist, marathon runner. Yes, Lance was a very good athlete and road-racing cyclist long before he was diagnosed with cancer and after he returned to the sport prior to including performance-enhancing drugs in his racing regimen.

But, like many cycling fans, I was frustrated by his Tour de Shame, denying doping, lying under oath — which will cost him a $10 Million penalty, intimidation, and suing those who attempted to prove that he did indeed “dope”, even in the face of the mounting evidence. There is a peloton of litigation following Lance.

In 2013, the very foundation he helped establish disassociated themselves from Lance by expunging his name from their identity. Brand Armstrong wasn’t just tarnished, it was toxic.

So, one wonders, can Lance Armstrong resurrect his brand?

Perhaps. But it will require serious steps to re-establish trust, erase the arrogant, narcissistic, Janus-faced image he created and continues to engender.

For example, in December 2014, after a night of partying in Aspen, he struck two vehicles and then convinced his girlfriend to take the blame. Or, his January 2015 interview in For the Win where he admits he would probably dope again.

Let’s be honest, Armstrong is a narcissist. But that is neither an indictment of him nor an excuse for his behavior, merely a realization of the personality behind the figure.

Narcissism is not itself the bane of personal branding even though it can get in the way. Look at many of the alpha male brands, I won’t mention specific names but you likely can identify two or three. Powerful, successful athletes, entrepreneurs, and international figures all exhibit degrees of narcissism, but they didn’t choose to cheat the rules to keep up with the competition and seemly convince themselves it is justified by the circumstances. And therein lies the problem for Lance.

In terms of personal branding, perception is key and his rebuilding phase must start with demonstrating true penitence for what he did and the people he wronged both through personal and legal acts.

Lance will have to speak from the heart, not from prepared scripts as we saw with Tiger Woods. It will also take more than apologies to former teammates.

Maybe someday Brand Armstrong will mean something positive and inspiring again. Like Tiger, it is what Lance “does next that counts”. Brand Armstrong must realize resurrection requires more than just saying “sorry”.