Last month as the International Cycling Union (UCI) followed the US Anti-Doping Agency on banning Lance Armstrong for life and stripping him of his Tour wins we got to witness what is arguably the biggest personal branding disasters unfold. I don’t think there’s any debate as whether or not Lance was a cheat, but there is lots of discussion as to what he can salvage from his personal brand.
The downfall of Lance Armstrong is unlike most of the personal brand disasters we see weekly in the tabloids. Even comparing to the apocalypse of the Tiger Woods affair, Lance as he has done with everything else, taken it to a different level. While I have no issues with flaws in any of my personal sporting heroes, Roy Kean and George Best for example are a long way from perfect. If anything it was their personal flaws that defined why they are heroic.
But for Lance, it’s different. His ‘flaw’ directly contradicts everything his personal brand stood for. If it was anything else: gambling; infidelity; womanising; drinking; embezzlement or even the petty crime of being stupid like so many of the downfallen things might not be so bad for brand Lance. While Tiger has still not recovered from the impacts of his fall from grace, people still want to see him play golf, see him win, see him succeed. Tiger still has plenty of sponsors while Lance has gone from being untouchable to become an untouchable. Even a search on Livestrong.org, the Lance Armstrong Foundation for ‘Lance Armstrong’ produces no results.
So what’s lessons can aspiring branders get from this sorry tale? How can we avoid a brand apocalypse?
Well other than the cardinal rule: don’t get caught, I think it is that brands must be true to themselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal or corporate brand if you’re not being true to what the brand does, how it acts and what it says you are doomed. As Abe said ” you can’t fool all of the people all of the time” and there’s a man that know about building brands.
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