Branding corruption

I opened the Globe early this morning to the story on Oprah’s interview with Lance Armstrong and there it was.  The ‘brand’ word.

Brand.  As in “Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah is likely to be the first in the long and difficult process of repairing his brand… said Manish Kacker, associate professor of marketing at McMaster University.”

First off, why would the Globe go to a marketing professional for anything remotely concerned with ethics, let alone an analysis of Lance Armstrong’s career in lying?  Who cares what the sniveling former sports star has done to his “brand”?  It’s not as if the Globe’s readers are trying to decide whether to short him.

Earth to Globe.  The issue at hand is Lance Armstrong’s moral character.  And perhaps the moral character of those who went along with Armstrong’s truthiness deficiency in order to make money along with him.  Hello Nike.

Armstrong, as Oprah’s excellent interview revealed, lied and cheated his way to glory.  In the process he threw teammates under the bus, viciously attacked anyone who dared hint at the truth often ruining them in the sport and used cancer to ward off suspicions and investigation.

And with these lies and attacks he built an empire, creating an image that was closer to that of a holy man than a sportsman.

About nine or ten years ago, my gym brought Armstrong to town as part of his Livestrong campaign and their fundraising campaign.  A match made in heaven, everyone got yellow wristbands, a motivational talk and a cycling lesson for a good chunk of cash.

The excitement meter was out of control. And I remember thinking Armstrong and the gym could have charged more, a lot more because the target market wasn’t just fitness buffs, it was devotees.  They believed.

A story about Armstrong’s doping and duping, putting it in the context of Armstrong’s ‘brand’ seems complicit, transforming the issue to whether he can rebuild his nasty little empire or not.

Reading the Globe’s piece I wondered why this take on the story?  And then I thought, well it’s obvious.  The sportswriters who drooled over Armstrong were complicit, just like Nike or the US Postal Service.

Forget about brand, Armstrong’s business was a kind of moral ponzi scheme that relied on sponsors, marketers, sports officials, journalists, advertising companies and corporations, not to mention fans to create the platform for sales.

A better story would be one that investigated that issue.  Whether Armstrong was corrupt has been decided.  The next step is to look at the machinery that enabled him.

And forget about his brand or their brands.  That, the market can sort out.

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11 Responses to Branding corruption

  1. RossK says:

    ‘moral ponzi scheme’ is a heckuva turn of phrase Ian.

    Not to mention accurate.


  2. Well said….. as always.

  3. Norm Farrell says:

    Fawning sports writers have long been complicit with the commercial enterprises they cover, whether actions involved illegal gambling, point shaving and game fixing, hazing, abuse or other wrongs. Did many jock sniffing reporters know about sports doping and cheating among cyclists and other athletes? Did many know about the long time suspicions of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky, yet stay silent?

    Sadly, a parallel can be drawn with some political pundits in British Columbia. I know of only one full-time journalist who dares refer to the conflicts of interest involving colleagues who take cheques from the industries and industry associations they cover or valuable benefits and rewards from lobbyists fronting for people with an interest in coverage they can buy. Where’s the system of voluntary disclosure of benefits received by pundits and political reporters?

  4. RossK says:

    Norm said:

    “Fawning sports writers have long been complicit with the commercial enterprises they cover”

    To take it local for a second…

    You mean like, say…



  5. Don F. says:

    This guy has done so much damage, on so many levels, to sport, charity,integrity, and all things we beleive, that to consider his brand as important seems totally crass and insulting.
    In a world where our youth have so little to beleive and so little guidance that they act out in such absurd and unacceptable ways, this guy comes along and pulls the rug out from any thoughts of fair play and sportsmanship we would ask them to believe.
    To set the example to cheat, lie,hurt, mock and take, to abuse freindships and con the hearts of caring chritable people?
    This man is an an abomination!
    Brand? What Brand?

  6. Merv says:

    I recall recently folks talking about whether the BCLiberal brand is damaged beyond repair..o yes..It was around the discussion of a name change for the party.

    Ian, do delete the comment if you think it’s off topic 🙂

  7. G. Barry Stewart says:

    Not that we would have been happy with crocodile tears — but my wife and I were expecting to see deep shame and remorse in Lance’s expressions. We didn’t.

    Lance’s life of lies was despicable but no one died here. I don’t recall George W. Bush looking saddened or teary-eyed after blowing up Iraq and not finding the promised weapons of mass destruction.

  8. RS says:

    Speaking of “brand” I’m thinking this whole Oprah/Armstrong thing was mutually beneficial to both of their “brands”. Oprah’s network/brand draws a huge audience which = rating = $. Armstrong is provided a forum, and who knows how much $, to promote himself, justify and even excuse his behaviour with his distorted “equal playing field” defense.

    Scratch : Scratch

  9. Ian says:

    Merv, I appreciate all comments. And this one is quite relevant. Thanks, Ian

  10. nonconfidencevote says:

    I refused to watch that ridiculous “interview” of a liar and a cheat.

    Just another nail in the coffin of all sports, professional and amateur.

    When olympic medals are handed out and then rescinded almost as quickly. When baseball players finally tell the truth because they risk serious jail time for lying to a senate committee. When professional football players die of cancer caused by years of steroid abuse. When basketball players drop dead of heart failure because of cocaine abuse. When pro football players are arrested for murder. When profootball or hockey or ????? coaches are convicted of years of child abuse. When millionaire hockey players are whining with billionaire owners…..
    Lets face it , in the Roman Circus Maximus we call ‘sports”….
    Its all about winning, no matter how its achieved.

    I hope they all go broke.

  11. e.a.f. says:

    Moral pon. scheme says it all. It is about making money. He made it, why he is doing the current routine I don’t know. Probably for the money and attention. It was interesting that he pushed the American gun debate off the front page. The media must have decided they could make more money on Lance & his dopping than serious social issues.

    Actually, who cares if a bunch of over paid athletes dope to enhance their performance. Our society loves it. If a some one wants to destroy their health, let them, I certainly don’t care. Athletes are not the end all or be all. People are so celebrity focused these days. People need to have a look at themselves and not try to live their lives vicariously through others. Pay attention to what matters. Take your kid to the park & play with them instead of sitting in front of a t.v. watching some over paid athelete make more money. It is not life or dead. There is no need to be so wrapped up in sports. If people were as wrapped up in real isues as they are in sports the world might be a better place to live for all.

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