Will Anheuser-Busch and Oakley follow suit?
In the face of “seemingly insurmountable evidence” that Lance Armstrong “misled Nike for more than a decade,” the athletics brand formally dropped the multiple Tour de France winner as its spokesman Wednesday.
The move came only hours after its own name was dragged through the mud surrounding the scandal; on Tuesday, Nike vehemently denied a New York Daily News report that it aided Armstrong in covering up use of performance-enhancing drugs.
“Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” said Nike in a statement. “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner. Nike plans to continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer.”
Armstrong, meanwhile, announced today he’s stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong charity so the group can focus more clearly on its cancer-fighting mission rather than the mounting problems surrounding its founder. He stepped down after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a comprehensive report detailing evidence of doping allegations against Armstrong and his teammates.
The dismissal by Nike – which stood by golf superstar Tiger Woods when news of his extramarital affairs became public in 2009 leading other sponsors such as Accenture to drop him, and stood by Kobe Bryant when the NBA superstar was charged with sexual assault in 2003 – effectively finishes Armstrong as an endorser on Madison Avenue. Sports-marketing experts predict that with Nike ditching Armstrong, other sponsors such as Anheuser-Busch and Oakley will likely follow this week.
Neither A-B, which yesterday issued a public statement of support for Armstrong, nor Oakley could be reached at presstime.
To read the original story in Advertising Age, click here.