The Livestrong Foundation, the cancer charity created by cyclist Lance Armstrong, has announced that athletic footwear and apparel company Nike is cutting its ties with the organization despite Armstrong's resignation as Livestrong board chair following accusations by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that the seven-time Tour de France winner had doped throughout his career.
Nike will stop making its Livestrong line of apparel after the 2013 holiday season, the Associated Press reports, although it will honor the financial terms of its contract until the deal expires in 2014. While Nike, the brand most closely associated with Armstrong, was the first major sponsor to announce it was ending its relationship with Armstrong last October, the company had pledged to continue to back "Livestrong initiatives." Since partnering with Livestrong in 2004, Nike has helped raise more than $100 million of the approximately $500 million raised by the charity in the decade and a half of its existence.
Kelly O'Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, told the AP that while Nike was slow to cut ties with Livestrong, the company "likely had no alternative," given how closely associated the Livestrong brand is with its founder. But Nike's decision may not be the end of the organization, according to Leslie Lenkowsky of Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Livestrong is in decent position to survive, Lenkowsky said, because it has a solid organizational structure and a distinct identity among cancer-fighting charities.
For its part, the charity said its finances were in good shape, with 2013 revenues totaling $16.4 million to date, compared with current year budgeted amounts of $16 million and prior year actual results of $17.1 million. "This news will prompt some to jump to negative conclusions about the foundation's future. We see things quite differently," said a statement on the Livestrong Web site. "We expected and planned for changes like this and are therefore in a good position to adjust swiftly and move forward with our patient-focused work. Because of our sound fiscal health, the foundation is well positioned to continue to grow our free services for cancer patients and survivors that improve quality of life and access to care."