Clever marketing or cheap publicity?

We all know Lance Armstrong as much for his strong support of cancer research through his Livestrong foundation as we do for his unprecedented 7 victories in the Tour de France. So it should not have come as a surprise that he and his RadioShack team chose the final day of this year’s tour to build awareness for his favorite cause.

Lance and his teammates switched their red jerseys for black ones with a number 28 on the back in honor of the estimated 28 million people worldwide living with cancer.

French race officials freaked out — something about rules stating you have to finish the 3-week race in the same-colored jerseys you started with. The race had to stop temporarily while the cyclists were forced to switch back to their red jerseys.

Apparently, Armstrong and RadioShack had failed to work things out ahead of time with the Tour de France officials.

Or did they?

The resulting publicity was much greater than if arrangements had been made ahead of time.  Was the Tour de France just being stuffy?  Unsympathetic to cancer patients? Or was Lance Armstrong using a sporting event (packed with advertising, by the way) for his own publicity?

Either way, it worked. It grabbed attention in a clever, viral, get-the-people-talking way.

But it raises compelling questions regarding guerilla marketing (the heck with gaining permission), hijacking live events for brand awareness, and how to snag the attention of the worldwide media.

I’m not so sure the public would have been so sympathetic were Lance Armstrong promoting nutritional supplements.  But Lance + cancer research + Tour de France = perfect opportunity for a very clever marketing tactic.

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1 Response to “Clever marketing or cheap publicity?”


  1. 1 David Salmassian July 27, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw it on TV. I think the team knew the rules.


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Robert Hyndman

can be reached at his Laguna Beach studio, 949.497.3179, or by using the form on the Contact Me page.
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