Despite doping scandal, Lance Armstrong's sponsors stand by their man
With Lance Armstrong's decision not to fight the doping charges leveled against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, his legacy has taken an undeniable hit. He will likely be stripped of his seven Tour de France wins, and he has been banned for life from racing competitively.
But it doesn't appear that his wallet will take a similar hit.
Most of his sponsors intend to stand by their man.
While Armstrong's endorsement-pulling power isn't what it was in his prime, the 40-year-old cycling phenomenon — who retired from biking for the second time last February — still rakes in an admirable sum.
Big-ticket endorsements from companies such as Nike, 24 Hour Fitness, Oakley, Michelob Ultra and Radio Shack contributed to an estimated $15.3 million haul in 2011.
Not bad for a guy who wasn't even racing for most of the year.
And while his reputation is no doubt irretrievably tarnished by his decision to accept the USADA's allegations, it's starting to look like he will come out of things just fine from an endorsement perspective.
Nike, probably his biggest sponsor, has already decided to stick by Armstrong. A statement issued by the company indicates that his continued insistence of his own innocence — his decision not to fight the charges did not include an admission of guilt — played a large part in the company's decision.
The fact that Nike's partnership with Armstrong also benefits his Lance Armstrong Foundation — which provides help for cancer patients — via the sale of Livestrong gear also likely factored into the equation.
"We are saddened that Lance Armstrong may no longer be able to participate in certain competitions and his titles appear to be impacted. Lance has stated his innocence and
has been unwavering on this position," Nike said in a statement. "Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors."
(It's worth noting that Nike also decided to stand behind Tiger Woods, following a scandal that brought the company's slogan "Just Do It" to a sordid new level.)
Anheuser-Busch is also hanging with Armstrong, who endorses their Michelob Ultra beer. The company likewise cites his work with people who, like Armstrong, have battled cancer.
"Our partnership with Lance remains unchanged," Paul Chibe, Anheuser-Busch's vice president of U.S. marketing, said in a statement. "He has inspired millions with his athletic achievement and his commitment to helping cancer survivors and their families."
Another of Armstrong's endorsement partners, 24 Hour Fitness — Armstrong lends his name to a number of their "signature clubs" — has also decided not to drop Armstrong. At least for the time being.
"24 Hour Fitness remains committed to helping our members improve their lives through fitness and exercise and does not condone the use of performance-enhancing drugs or procedures," the company told TheWrap in a statement. "We will continue to assess the situation with Lance Armstrong."
Oakley, likewise, has Armstrong's back, saying that it "respects his decision and his restated commitment to focus on the Foundation he created to help battle cancer."
“As Lance’s longtime supporter and partner, Oakley respects his decision and his restated commitment to focus on the Foundation he created to help battle cancer," Oakley told TheWrap in a statement. "He has inspired many and the Foundation is an example of his work. Oakley will continue to support The Lance Armstrong Foundation, and as we have stated in the past, Oakley supports its athletes who respect and honor the ethics of sports until proven otherwise.”
Radio Shack has not yet responded to TheWrap's requests for comment on whether they plan to maintain their sponsorship with Armstrong.
Clearly, while the biker might deny using performance-enhancing drugs, he still has plenty of juice when it comes to wrangling endorsements.
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