LIVESTRONG Rides with PR for a New Horizon

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A few things in this world have been marketed so seamlessly that consumers cannot think about one without the other.

There’s Disney and Mickey Mouse. Nike and Jordan (or Tiger). Volvo and Safety. Starbucks and Coffee. Susan G. Komen or Mary Kay and the color pink.

Branding is very successful when done right, which is why “staying true to the brand” is vital. And then there was LIVESTRONG. It was a global phenomenon because of an amazing story, a charismatic individual, and a yellow bracelet. Yeah, those were the days.

This week, the Austin-based cancer advocacy organization is looking to do it again with true PR strategy, but can they without … that guy?

In one of the most shameful acts in recent memory, Lance Armstrong finally caved and admitted he lied — to the cycling community and the world about his personal use and enterprise on doping for sport. Far more importantly, there was the cancer community he left in the dust. You have millions of people who hung up Lance Armstrong posters and even tattooed his plastic bracelet (sponsored by Nike) on their body.

livestrongAnd for what? Because he overcame cancer in a triumphant way.

Only, not so much. Now that he is disgraced and living somewhere in Texas, LIVESTRONG realized its time to get back on that bike and share its legacy. You know? Without that guy (at least visibly for now). Lance may have lied but people who beat cancer that have benefited from the research of LIVESTRONG was no falsehood.

In fact, it’s a tear-jerking, heart-wrenching reality that was greatly overlooked because of the actions of “Arm-not-so-strong.” It is why this focus and hire works.

Like so many other companies and non-profit organizations before it, LIVESTRONG is turning to PR strategy to separate itself from that guy’s exploits and ask America to focus on its own.

According to a story in O’Dwyers, the company has hired Ellen Barry, “who advised Fortune 500 companies and others most recently as a senior managing director for Teneo Holdings, took up the post in late May at Livestrong [sic], which is working to regain major corporate backers.”

LIVESTRONG president and CEO Doug Ulman said Barry’s experience and connections will be an asset to the organization. “The relationships she built and unique perspectives she brings will be a major addition for all of the Foundation’s work as we continue to focus on improving the lives of people affected by cancer,” he said.

The corporate big donors are vital, with the fading away of Nike’s support. I mean, nothing against them, they support organizations through sports. No Lance, no swoosh. After the company raised more than $500M before 2010, its annual revenue plummeted to $47M in 2011 and then $38M in 2012.

As the son of a three-time cancer survivor (and the strongest woman I know), I want to see this organization live up to its name. With PR, it will.

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