Can you ever really kill a brand?
Lance Armstrong has to be one of the most inspiring athletes in recent memory. Doping or not (and honestly, I don’t care either way), he is fantastic. The recent decision to strip him of his titles leaves to me to wonder, can you really take away all the good the Lance Armstrong brand stood for?
I don’t think you can. Once you’ve invested so much in advertising and PR for a huge powerhouse, there will always be a following. “Hey don’t you remember when…”, “It was great when…” You can’t strip away the stories, tainted or not. You can’t strip away what it really was.
The stories may be too fresh for you to believe me, so let me take you back. I grew up not far from the home of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Now for those of you who don’t follow turn-of-the-century baseball, Shoeless Joe was good. I mean really good. Like second only to Ty Cobb good. He grew up a Sharecropper’s son on the outskirts of Greenville, SC and learned to play baseball on his textile mill’s team. It’s the classic Cinderella story.
Needless to say, the upstate of South Carolina loves Shoeless Joe. There is a huge statue of him in the West End of Greenville, a museum, and a sign on the interstate as you drive into Greenville County. “Welcome to Greenville County. Home of Shoeless Joe Jackson.” Across the upstate, children are told about Shoeless Joe. He’s an inspiration to generations.
There is no mention of the scandal: if he and several other White Sox players threw the 1919 World Series. No talk of the fact he still remains on MLB’s ineligible list. The Shoeless Joe brand just washed itself off, and went down as fantastic in the records.
Now you may think this only applies to sports. It is, in fact, not the case. Just look at the Tylenol murders from the ‘80s. Strong branding can go a long way in restoring a tarnished image.