Nike Cuts Ties with Livestrong, Will Stop Manufacturing Iconic Bracelets
Livestrong made headlines once again this month, and once again, the headlines weren't good for the nonprofit organization. Nike, Livestrong's largest partner for the past nine years, has announced that it will stop producing merchandise for the cancer survivor network's webstore, including the famed yellow wristband that the sportswear company first developed in 2004.
"Nike has made the decision to stop producing new LIVESTRONG product after its Holiday 2013 line," the company said in a statement on Tuesday. Nike will fulfill its contractual obligations to the organization through 2014, and said it would "continue to support the LIVESTRONG Foundation by funding them directly," although provided no further information on what that would mean for the troubled nonprofit.
Nike has proven instrumental in elevating Livestrong's profile globally, having been arguably as influential as founder Lance Armstrong. While the nonprofit launched in 1997, it wasn't until Nike came on board in 2004 and debuted its silicone wristbands that Livestrong became a household name. Since then, 87 million of the bracelets have been sold and Nike has helped raise more than $500 million for cancer survivors.
The foundation wasn't alone in benefitting from the relationship: Nike sold $150 million in Livestrong-branded products in 2012. Some of that was given over as royalty payments to the organization, but the apparel company still turned a profit on the products. The revenue, and the goodwill of being associated with the nonprofit, evidently did not outweigh the negativity of being associated with the disgraced Armstrong, who admitted to using performance enhancing drugs during his record seven Tour de France wins. Nike ended its official sponsorship of Armstrong in October 2012, after he was stripped of those Tour de France titles.
In a statement, Livestrong reaffirmed that "the Foundation created and owns the LIVESTRONG brand" and stated that it "expected and planned for changes like this and are therefore in a good position to adjust swiftly and move forward with our patient-focused work." According to USA Today, the foundation will continue to produce the $1 yellow bracelets through a contractor in China after the 2013 holiday season. Even though they are being manufactured separately, the packages will still bear the Nike logo until that contact expires at the end of 2014.