One Step too far for Nike!
Nike have recently announced that their sponsorship with Lance Armstrong has been terminated after the US Anti-Doping Agency released a report detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times. Armstrong retired from cycling a year ago and said in August that he would no longer fight the doping allegations that have dogged him for years.
Nike’s philosophy is arguably based on winning at all costs and that has been demonstrated over the years. They like to have sportsmen and women that are not “straight laced” or “goody 2 shoes” and history shows that some of their most marketable athletes have had an “edgy” side…………Eric Cantona, Andre Agassi, Wayne Rooney, Michael Jordan, John McEnroe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiger Woods to name but a few. They are all massive personalities in their respective sport and they all carry some positive and negative characteristics but ultimately they are winners.
Whilst some of their athletes have been involved in controversy and scandals in the past, Nike have tended to remain supportive of their stars. In 1995 Cantona launched the famous ’kung-fu’ style kick at a supporter in the crowd and was subsequently banned for several months. Nike stood by Cantona and even created an advertising campaign based around the player’s return to competitive action after the ban.
More recently in 2009 Nike stood by golfer Tiger Woods after he admitted to a string of infidelities and had a brief stint in a rehab treatment facility for sex addiction.
So why have Nike been less forgiving with Lance Armstrong compared to how they dealt with other stars in the past? The answer is simply a matter of brand values……….Nike want their stars to win at all costs but any association with cheating or drugs goes completely against the Nike brand. Initially Armstrong stringently denied the allegations and Nike maintained their support but as evidence mounted against Armstrong, Nike had no option but to terminate their association for the sake of the Nike brand.
Nike are pretty forgiven when it comes to their sport stars but the allegations that Armstrong used illegal drugs to boost his performance during his 20-plus year career proved to be one step too far for the brand.