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LIVESTRONG Cause Marketing

If you're anything like me then you've watched the growth and development of Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG brand with a mixture of awe and envy.

It started with the iconic yellow rubber bracelets, which since 2004 have generated more than $70 million for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Over the arc of the bracelet's popularity they have been imitated, parodied and worn by vast array of non-biking celebrities, as well as the hoi polloi.

All guided by the legendary marketers at Nike and its long-time agency Weiden+Kennedy.

So popular and well-known was the yellow bracelet that there was a long while when it seemed like every fundraising brainstorming session I had with a charity somebody suggested a bracelet campaign, as if lightning could be caught in a bottle a second time.

(In that way it's reminiscent of all the meetings I've been in when people suggested that all they needed to really get their pet project off the ground was an appearance on Oprah!)

From the start Nike built LIVESTRONG like another one of its famous brands and for sometime now Nike has been selling LIVESTRONG shoes and Apparel.

The LIVESTRONG campaign is the closest I can recall Nike coming to transactional cause marketing.

Envious as I am, I think Nike has misplayed its hand with this ad, which appeared in the January 2010 issue of Lucky magazine.

What exactly is the headline "We are More than One" supposed to mean?

I assume we are meant to draw some kind of connecting line between the unconquered spirits of cancer survivors, which is what LIVESTRONG is about, and the will it takes to win to Olympic gold medals or throw a no-hitter in baseball, or win seven Tours de France.

In truth, a there's only one athlete in the world who can draw that line and that's Lance Armstrong. No one has won more Tour de France championships than Armstrong, a feat made all the more remarkable considering his well-known 1996 bout with testicular cancer.

That said, all the featured athletes in the ad are survivors of cancer or disease.

But aside from Armstrong, did you know that? I know I had to look it up.

Laurel Wessner, a twin, fought Hodgkin's lymphoma. Jon Lester survived non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Sanya Richards has a form of vasculitis, an inflammatory disease that affects the blood vessels.

You have to be a pretty close student of sport to know those facts. But if you're not, this ad doesn't make much sense.

People aren't their diseases, I get that. But an ad with this headline merits a sentence that explains not only their athletic prowess, but their heroic battle with disease.


Walter Roark said…
As an advertising copywriter for over 30 years, let me give my two cents. I believe for the sake of being cool, Nike missed a real opportunity here to tug on readers' heart strings. It's a story begging to be told, but Nike's chic, minimalist copy attitude apparently wouldn't allow it take up any ad space. I think readers would have been moved if each individual was given a short, declarative sentence that describes his or her cancer-beating experience. A little more copy would have made a much more powerful ad (and better bottom line results).
Walter, we're on the same page.

I like subtle as much as the next guy, but Nike has spun this so finely that the meaning is all but obscured.

Thanks for your comment.
Anonymous said…
Genial dispatch and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you on your information.

When I saw the add, I too said, "Huh? More than one what?" Not good when you have to give it too much thought which means, turn the page in the magazine.

Maggie Keenan
Maggie, I think you make a penetrating point.

People don't read magazines so much as they look at them.

If meanings are hidden in ads people aren't going go to the trouble to figuring them out.

Thanks for your comment!

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