Cause for Alarm?
It's been a rough year for Livestrong. Just months after the nonprofit organization severed ties with founder Lance Armstrong in the wake of Armstrong's doping admission, Nike announced it would cease production of Livestrong merchandise after 2013, effectively ending the partnership between the two organizations. While Livestrong has so far remained financially stable and indicated it will continue its cancer-awareness mission undeterred, it remains to be seen how the foundation will fare down the line without the backing of its two biggest partners in Armstrong and Nike.
That could mean uncertainty for the promotional products industry. It was Livestrong that popularized the silicone awareness bracelet, with cause marketers for foundations large and small co-opting the bands as a primary fundraising tool. Could Livestrong's partially tarnished image and uncertain future spill over to the awareness market, and if so, will demand for silicone bracelets drop off?
So far, the answer is no. "We have not seen an impact on our silicone bracelet sales after Nike cut ties with Livestrong," explained Katharina Piper, marketing manager for BamBams LLC, Woodbridge, Va. "Silicone bracelets have been and still are one of the most popular and cost-effective awareness products."
Ronna Rosenblatt, owner of Newburyport, Massachusetts-based Pinnovative Designs, agreed. "I think people still want them—they're wearing them and they're asking for them," she said.
Much of this is due to the way silicone bracelets have transcended Livestrong. They're no longer associated strictly with the Livestrong brand, but with awareness in general, shielding them from any negative backlash. In other words, even if the iconic yellow LIVESTRONG wristband loses its appeal, the blue ones and the red ones and the periwinkle ones will keep on selling.
Still, if your client isn't fully sold on the silicone bracelet's sustainability or just wants to change things up, you've got options. Ribbons and lapel pins remain popular, and just about anything can be serve as an awareness item if used correctly. "Whether people use stress relievers, car accessories, phone accessories, metal products such as lapel pins, or any type of jewelry or apparel, there is no limit when it comes to awareness products," noted Piper.