Through PR, all things are possible. Maybe.
Lance Armstrong's career as a public figure, it would seem, is over. After all, he did not one but several of the lowest things you can do in sports (and life, really): He cheated, he lied about cheating, he allegedly harassed and persecuted those who told the truth about his cheating—and worst of all, he became an international hero in the process. Now that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has found Armstrong on the wrong end of "conclusive and undeniable proof" of a decade's worth of performance-enhancing drugs, and he's been banned from cycling for life and stripped of his seven cherished Tour de France titles, the public's regard for Armstrong has tumbled from Superman status down to the depths of disappointment and scorn.
But if disgraced heroes like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Martha Stewart, and Tiger Woods taught us anything, it's that there's always a way to crawl back into the public's good graces—with the help of some powerful image-rehab magic conjured up by a trained professional, that is.
What, if anything, can be done to help rebuild Armstrong's image? Lance Armstrong, after all, isn't just a man. He's a marketable brand, too. Since it launched in 1997, his foundation Livestrong (formerly known as the Lance Armstrong Foundation) has raised more than $470 million for cancer awareness and research. So I asked four professionals in brand management, public relations, and consulting what advice they would give to Armstrong to help salvage what's left of Brand Lance: Karl Heiselman, CEO of international brand consultancy Wolff Olins; Erin Patton, a former Nike executive and brand management consultant who represented the Williams sisters and Stephon Marbury in partnership deals; Danielle Robinson, a Madison Avenue brand strategist; and David Simmons, a Los Angeles-based sports consultant who formerly worked with the Dodgers. And while their approaches didn't always match up, all four agreed on one thing: Even though Armstrong has a more complicated road back to credibility than many other fallen stars before him, he's nowhere close to a lost cause. From their responses emerged a simple plan outlining what Lance Armstrong (the man) can do to save Lance Armstrong (the franchise).