Lance Armstrong’s Personal Brand Puncture!

Two recent events have forced me to explore the importance of legacy and the mark we all leave in the world. One was the sad passing of my mother who instilled in me the values and characteristics that have clearly defined my personal brand. Her legacy still lives strong.

The other being the ‘official’ crash and burn of my personal hero Lance Armstrong who until recently motivated me to be a better cyclist and fight for what I believe in. Will his legacy be as useless as a punctured tire?

You might be thinking how can I possibly use the physical death of a family member in same way as the symbolic death of a role model?  Obviously the emotional impact is significantly different, but the question of how any one of us leaves our mark is the same.

Steve Jobs talked about ‘making a dent in the universe’ and my friend Todd Nielsen took this one step further in his June Blogathon post by saying “Screw dents I’m aiming for an immense gaping hole!” 

Lance’s Gaping Hole

One can say that Lance Armstrong made an immense gaping hole in the world with his winning fight against cancer followed by his 7 consecutive Tour de France titles.

But his titles are now officially gone, his Livestrong foundation no longer wants him, his sponsors have pulled the plug, lawsuits are pending, and he has lost the admiration of so many, like me, who have trusted and believed in him. Lance’s gaping hole is now an immense puncture in his personal brand.

In August I wrote a post in support of Lance and his decision not to contest the doping allegations from USADA. I gave 4 reasons why I thought his brand would still live strong. I am now forced to hang my head and question this post as my admiration and respect for him has wavered. I can no longer say he is my role model or hero.

No doubt his brand is now a punctured tire. Yet, believe it or not, Lance can still salvage his brand. Most punctures can actually be repaired.

But…No Support Vehicle This Time Lance!

As with all professional cyclists, when it comes to flat tires in a race Lance has been spoiled. When a racer gets a flat, the team support vehicle is there to quickly throw a whole new wheel on the bicycle. Every second counts. There is no time to repair a puncture. Any damage or malfunction is overlooked and something new takes its place.

Lance no longer has a support vehicle to ride up and toss him a new wheel. He cannot jump back on the bike so easily this time. He has a choice: Hang up the bike and ignore the damage, or take the initiative to fix the puncture himself.

Can Lance Repair His ‘Flat Tire Brand’?

I often use the “flat tire” analogy in my Personal Brand Mechanics interview series. Each ‘mechanic’ I interview is given this final question to answer:

“Imagine someone’s personal brand has a flat tire. What advice would you give this person to fix this flat so that their brand is ready to ride again?”

Lessons from the past have shown that a damaged reputation can be repaired and even reinvented. Do Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, and Marion Jones ring a bell? By admitting wrong doing and facing the repercussions each of these athletes have been able to repair their personal brand punctures. I wonder what advice my Mom would have offered Lance? Hmmm…..

Can Lance repair his flat tire brand? What advice would you offer Lance now? Share your comments below.

About the author

Peter Sterlacci Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer.” In a country where fitting-in is the norm, Peter’s mission is to pioneer a ‘cultural shift’ by helping Japanese to stand out in a global environment. An avid cyclist, he combines cycling imagery with personal branding strategy to empower his clients to shift gears and sprint to career success. Follow Peter on Google+