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.

Kyle A. Richardson is the editorial director of Promo Marketing. He joined the company in 2006 brings more than a decade of publishing, marketing and media experience to the magazine. If you see him, buy him a drink.

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  • ihatebreastcanc

    We can only hope the bracelet trend is on the decline. For every exemplary fundraiser and/or worthy cause, we have groups like the Keep-a-Breast Foundation, the brain trust behind the "I Heart Boobies" bracelets. Beloved of sixth graders everywhere, the Boobies Bracelets may seem pretty harmless.
    Note that KAB–which is a nonprofit–makes MILLIONS from these bracelets annually: $,3,692,731.49 per its latest financial statement. Now, how much of that money goes to "awareness"? Well–that depends. Do you think rock concerts create breast cancer awareness? If that is the case, why don’t we all go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and throw some beads for "awareness"?
    Why, given that the American Cancer society no longer endorses self-exam as useful for ANY woman is the I ♥ Boobies/Keep-a-Breast Foundation raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote it among young women (for whom it was NEVER recommended)?
    The Boobies Bracelets funded $150,000 in research last year. Just enough to claim it is doing something without actually diverting too much money from its vital breast casting and rock concerts for awareness…Some of its bracelet selling revenues also go toward vigorously defending its brand from guys like this:
    Meanwhile, 40,000 US people will die this year of metastatic breast cancer. Imagine if we spent millions not on rock concerts but on research that would help the 150,000 US people currently living with metastatic breast cancer live longer?

    It’s been suggested we offer a Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelet. with sayings like these:

    >Let Me Tell You About My Side Effects

    >Neuropathy: It’s Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

    >Join the Fight Against Chronic Constipation

    >Thank Goodness I Have Chemo Brain, Because You Look Pretty Forgettable

    >Screw Research, I’d Rather Buy Pink Crap from a Shallow & Useless Group

    >What Part of Incurable Disease Don’t You Understand?

    I think we’re gonna need a bigger bracelet….