Lance Armstrong’s Personal Brand Redemption?


Well, it is official. We have heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Lance Armstrong has confessed to using performance enhancement drugs throughout his career. Not that this should be of any surprise at this point. Even his steadfast supporters started dropping like flies just a few months back, including me.



Brand Labels

I always said that until I heard it from Lance’s mouth I would stand by the person I always labeled a hero, a role model, an icon. Should I now completely shrug him off and attach the labels doper, liar, cheat?

Part of me wants to especially considering one of my favorite Lance commercials is now a slap in the face! See for yourself:

Under the guise of cancer patients we hear Lance saying “The critics say I am a doper, washed-up, a fraud ……”  I had always respected Lance for fighting back in the face of such critics and standing true to his brand. This guy kicked cancer’s ass and inspired millions!


I developed a hatred for Greg LeMond, now the only official American winner of the TDF, who for years adamantly labeled Lance a doper. How dare he attack Lance. He was just a jealous guy who could not achieve what Lance did.


I cursed Lance’s ex-teammates, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, for labeling Lance as the kingpin in a massive doping coverup in cycling. Wah, wah, wah. Two more jealous babies who were the “real” dopers.


So how should I label Lance now that he has officially uttered his confession?

As I referenced in a previous post, what has unfolded here has far less to do with a bad decision made by an athlete. We all make stupid choices in life. People are people. Nobody is perfect.  This was a betrayal of authenticity. I stood by Lance because I believed. As years passed and more and more cyclists admitted to using drugs, maybe I convinced myself that I had to believe. He beat cancer after all! Why would he cheat? Why would he weave a web of lies for so many years?

Strong brands are based in authenticity and when a brand is no longer authentic, or worse yet hides behind a false image while destroying the authenticity of others, we feel scammed. Lance scammed us and that is why we want to label him a liar, a fraud, and a cheat.


Brand Redemption

But here is the thing. We also live in a world where people deserve another chance. Admit your faults, pay the price, do your time, eat humble pie. We have seen it before.

I could care less if his appearance on Oprah was for her ratings, or if he was paid a chunk of change to come clean. I am sure both are true. Whatever.

The fact is that he has confessed. He has come clean. He needs to bear the brunt of a lot of bad press, be the butt of jokes for late night comics, and get abused on social media. However, this will pass.

Lance has finally taken the first step in his personal brand redemption. He deserves some credit now, however slight that may be, for stepping up. And for that I respect him.

A Perfect Case Study

I plan to follow his brand redemption very closely over the next months to see how it unfolds for two reasons.

First, as a personal branding specialist, I want to document his personal brand reinvention. How will he refocus his brand? What will he do now to earn back trust? Some say his brand is beyond repair. I disagree .

Second, as someone who once was a believer, I want to believe in him again. Maybe, just maybe, I want to call him a hero again. (But not just yet!)

Don’t disappoint me again Lance. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Or, as one of your fellow Texans so eloquently put it:

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+