RadioShack’s Armstrong dilemma


The latest allegations by former teammates that Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs pose a marketing dilemma for RadioShack, the Fort Worth-based corporation that sponsors the bicycle racing team that Armstrong represents, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Friday.
The company has sponsored Team RadioShack since July 2009. Armstrong raced for the team in last year’s Tour de France, finishing third, and in other races before he announced on Feb. 16 that he is retiring from professional racing. Most recently, Armstrong has appeared in RadioShack television ads as the company’s “chief mobility officer.”
Armstrong’s career is one of the most remarkable in sports. In 1996, he nearly died of testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. He survived, made a comeback and went on win the Tour de France a record seven times, from 1999 to 2005.
But the doping allegations in connection with a federal investigation of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional cycling have cast a shadow over the Texas cyclist’s illustrious career and his celebrity endorsements.
“Clearly, the situation puts RadioShack and new CEO Jim Gooch, who took over last week, in a tough spot,” wrote Star-Telegram business reporter Barry Shlachter.
Shlachter’s story quoted Rick French, CEO of French West Vaughan, a public relations firm based in Raleigh, N.C., on RadioShack’s situation:
“If they jump ship too early and he is later proven to be innocent, they will have a PR problem. If they stay with him and he is proven to be guilty, they look like the ostrich with their heads in the sand and also face a PR problem.”
French’s advice? “Begin to de-emphasize him without cutting ties until more information is available.”
That’s what RadioShack might be doing, Shlachter reported.
“RadioShack has made no public statement of support, but spokesman Eric Bruner confirmed that it had an ‘ongoing’ relationship with Armstrong,” the newspaper said. “Bruner declined to provide details other than to say the cyclist is not in the current mix of commercials.”

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