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Does the Livestrong Foundation need to further re-brand themselves in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s confession to using performance enhancing drugs? Trust is a necessary component of building a strong brand, and the scandal has tarnished it. Non-profits do not have a product, only a compelling mission which must bring in donations.
The Livestrong Foundation has made critical strives to protect their brand. First, it has expanded from its roots to become a major medical self-help resource on the web. A number of the top keywords driving traffic to the site are medical terms unrelated to cancer. Second, Armstrong stepped down as Chairman of the organization and left the Board of Directors following his lifetime cycling ban in October. Last but not least, the organization’s name was formally changed from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to the Livestrong Foundation in November 2012.
Even though Armstrong left the foundation, the brand remains synonymous with the cyclist – and all of the negative press that is associated with his name. According to Compete, “Lance Armstrong” was the fourth highest search referral term for Livestrong.org over the last three months, after “Livestrong”, “Livestrong.com” and “Live strong”. Lance’s Story remains in the ‘about’ section on the foundation’s website, though does not mention anything about Lance’s controversial cycling career.
Should the Livestrong Foundation cut all ties with its founder? If its donations are affected by all the media attention, then the answer needs to be yes. Doing so would be an uphill battle–the brand will lose its compelling story, not to mention it will be nearly impossible to replicate the success of the iconic yellow, rubber Livestrong bracelets.
Compete’s data shows traffic to the foundation’s website, livestrong.org, seemingly correlates to Lance Armstrong’s media attention. The site’s daily reach and daily attention both increased in October 2012 when Lance was officially banned from cycling following an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Traffic to the site followed a similar trend of increased visitors in the past week since the airing of Lance’s exclusive confession to Oprah Winfrey.
The old saying, “there is no such thing as bad publicity” appears to ring true for the Livestrong Foundation. The negative attention around the doping scandal has driven traffic to the site, meaning more potential donors.
Completely re-branding itself it risky business for any organization. A number of well-known brands learned this the hard way, including Kraft, Sunchips, Gap and ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’. Re-branding a charity has its own challenges, such as the lack of a tangible product to change. So far, the Livestrong Foundation has successfully balanced partially re-branding itself while not completely forgetting its roots.
Do you think The Livestrong Foundation has done enough? Is a complete re-brand necessary?