Making Good Out of Bad: The Upcoming Oprah Interview with Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France 7 times before he was stripped of his titlesAmericans love their sports. We give our athletes a great deal of respect and reverence in our society. It’s no surprise that the media (and the public) go haywire when allegations of doping or other scandals occur. Many Americans were shocked when Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles in October of 2012. But soon Lance Armstrong will be addressing the scandal in an interview, making the best out of a not-so-pleasant situation.

The Upcoming Interview

The media reported over the weekend about Lance Armstrong’s agreement to an interview with TV and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, but more details have been emerging this morning. According to Ed Payne at CNN, “Lance Armstrong has agreed to a 90-minute interview” and will be meeting with “Oprah Winfrey [today] for his first interview since he was stripped of his… titles in a doping scandal.” For the length of time he was in denial, this makes for a pretty big story.

Unfortunately, no one will be able to see the interview until it airs on Thursday at 9:00 PM on Oprah’s TV network. Once the cat is out of the bag, expect the video and a lot of opinion pieces to flood the web and social media.  No doubt we’ll be seeing a lot of bashing, forgiveness, confusion, and criticism as this week ends.

The interview is going to be interesting. An AP story posted on NBC Sports describes the interview as “a “no-holds barred” session.” It’s going to have to be if Armstrong is able to somehow explain what USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart said when describing Armstrong’s doping. The AP story quotes Travis, stating Armstrong’s doping scandal was “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen.” That’s not a quote anyone wants associated with their activities.

Lance Armstrong the Man, the Brand, and a Lesson

Lance Armstrong, in the ten years he has been denying doping, has managed to become a sports icon, legend, and even a brand. He was a household name for years and – I would like to believe – a source of pride for much of America. With the doping allegations in 2011 and the eventual ban from competition and stripping of his titles in October of 2012, Armstrong’s reputation had sunk.

At this point Lance was the name behind the Livestrong organization and the Lance Armstrong Foundation he founded. He fought the investigation into his alleged doping and denied all of the accusations for over two months. There’s no doubt his reputation and his brand suffered. But he kept fighting it.

With the upcoming interview, Lance Armstrong is doing what only some brands correctly do when they make a mistake. He is addressing the public directly and candidly. It’s assumed that he will “make a general confession and apologize” according to Jim Vertuno for the AP.

 Too Late?

But is it too late for Lance Armstrong and his reputation? Oftentimes the strategy of humility and admittance of wrongdoing works most effectively when done immediately. Lance is a person but he’s also a brand. Brand management and celebrity management are one and the same.

Many companies go through this every day, especially as more and more people come to them through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter with complaints and charges of wrongdoing. There are plenty of stories of companies going the extra mile to satisfy customers when they have made a mistake. But they do this immediately and people recognize and appreciate the actions taken.

Lance is coming to Oprah after a career of denial and even more denial two months after the news hit the presses of the doping scandal. There’s no doubt that the interview will help Lance to mend some of the damage to his brand and his reputation, but he won’t be exonerated anytime soon; it’s best to address wrongdoing or mistakes right away, in marketing and in life. People recognize when others do the right thing at the right time and it’s rewarded, especially in business.

What do you think of the Oprah interview and reported confession? Is it too late for Lance Armstrong’s reputation?



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Patrick currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is studying for a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations. Upon graduation from Penn State in 2008, he spent two years overseas in Kyrgyzstan with the U.S. Peace Corps. While writing is currently his chosen way to put food on the table, he loves fitness and exercise, which he believes makes up for his avid computer gaming habit.

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