Lance Armstrong and Livestrong: What it Means for Promotional Silicone Bracelets
LIVESTRONG: for nearly a decade, the word has symbolized the strength and solidarity of cancer survivors worldwide. Founded in 1997, Livestrong became a household name in 2004 with the launch of its namesake yellow silicone wristbands. Available for a dollar and with all proceeds going toward cancer survivor services, the Nike-designed bracelets turned into a global phenomenon, with more than 50 million of the promotional bracelets sold in the first year alone. The trend caught on and other organizations adopted the strategy, selling wristbands for causes like AIDS awareness and Hurricane Katrina relief. Celebrity sightings made the awareness bracelets fashionable. Nonprofits were seeing cash flow in like never before thanks to the sale of the promotional items, and it was all made possible by the founder of the Livestrong Foundation: Olympian, Tour de France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.
And in nine months, it all came crashing down.
In June 2012, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged Armstrong with taking banned performance enhancing drugs and orchestrating “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” The agency stripped Armstrong of all professional wins since August 1998, including seven consecutive Tour de France wins and a bronze medal from the 2000 Summers Olympics, and announced a lifetime ban from all USADA-regulated sports. Despite Armstrong’s insistence of innocence, the Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling’s ruling body, accepted the USADA recommendations in October of 2012. On January 13, 2013, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted to using the banned substances throughout his career.
Public backlash was immediate. As early as October, critics were seen crossing out the “V” on their bracelets, transforming the message into “LIE STRONG.” Days after Armstrong’s admission, a Yahoo article asked “Are People Still Wearing Livestrong Bracelets?” Reactions have been mixed, with many feeling betrayed and cutting off their bracelets, while others maintain that the Livestrong Foundation’s good works should be viewed separate from its founder.