Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is now considered so toxic in the wake of recent doping accusations that big sponsors such as Nike and Trek are running for the hills.
So too is Anheuser-Busch InBev. The beer giant used to pay Armstrong to promote Mic Ultra, but now they've announced they won't renew that contract at the end of 2012.
However, according to a statement by Paul Chibe, its VP of domestic marketing,
"We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation and its cycling and running events."
Sure, Livestrong does do some good stuff, according to a very long investigative piece by Bill Gifford that ran in Outside Magazine last February:
On the program side, I learned that Livestrong provides an innovative and expanding suite of direct services to help cancer survivors negotiate our Kafkaesque health care system.
But doesn't it fund cancer research? Not anymore, Gifford discovered. Livestrong administrators operate on the theory that the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute already spend about $2 billion on research, so Livestrong should concentrate on "awareness."
What's the problem with that? Wrote Gifford:
I found a curiously fuzzy mix of cancer-war goals like "survivorship" and "global awareness," labels that seem to entail plastering the yellow Livestrong logo on everything from T-shirts to medical conferences to soccer stadiums. Much of the foundation's work ends up buffing the image of one Lance Edward Armstrong, which seems fair--after all, Livestrong wouldn't exist without him. But Livestrong spends massively on advertising, PR, and "branding," all of which helps preserve Armstrong's marketability at a time when he's under fire. Meanwhile, Armstrong has used the goodwill of his foundation to cut business deals that have enriched him personally, an ethically questionable move.
But still, Anheuser-Busch InBev has decided to sponsor Livestrong. Should it?