April 23, 2018
Armstrong Settles for $5 Million
There was a time when Lance Armstrong was sports royalty, as much of a sponsorship “sure-thing” as there was in sports. Many businesses, including the US Postal Service, bet big on Armstrong and his Livestrong brand based on that certified return.
Then came the massive doping scandal and the rapid fall from the mountaintop. Armstrong transformed from incredible inspiration to punchline overnight, because he was forced to admit using performance-enhancing drugs after denying it for years. He was subsequently stripped of a record-setting seven Tour de France victories. When that happened all the companies that put trust in his marketability were left holding a very empty bag.
Now, as part of the fallout from those revelations, Armstrong has reached a $5 million settlement agreement with the federal government. A big chunk of money, but much less than the $100 million the lawsuit could have demanded. That deal came about at the 11th hour before the state and the cyclist were scheduled to go to court over the issue. The lawsuit was initially filed by Floyd Landis, a former USPS team cyclist who was also left cold when Armstrong was disgraced. The US federal government joined the suit after Armstrong’s confession to taking performance-enhancing drugs. That televised admission rocked the cycling world, and essentially erased Armstrong’s massive marketability.
Armstrong released a statement through the Associated Press, expressing ‘happiness’ to have this behind him. “I’ve made peace with the Postal Service. While I believe their lawsuit against me was meritless and unfair, and while I am spending a lot of money to resolve it, I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes and inappropriate conduct, and make amends wherever possible… I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”
While no one doubts Armstrong’s effort, heart, or his competitive spirit, what people doubt is his character, and that makes it tough for the brands associated with him to make peace with their association. Armstrong has already been dropped by every major sponsor and been forced to pay more than $20 million in damages to various former clients. Financially, the cyclist is certainly not hurting, but his reputation is still in the rebuilding phase. There’s no doubt, if he chose to, Armstrong could claw his way back into the good graces of fans.
People love a comeback story, and there’s still a huge reservoir of untapped love for the Livestrong banner man… if he chooses to earn it.
Ronn Torossian is a public relations professional with over 20 years of experience