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PR tightrope being walked by RadioShack, say experts
RadioShack is yet to open into negotiations for the 2012 season, casting shadows over the future of Team RadioShack. Questions have surrounded the future of the team ever since seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong announced his retirement earlier this year. Armstrong was the key player in creating the RadioShack team, and has acted as a brand ambassador for the company itself.
Eric Bruner, head of RadioShack media relations, spoke to Cyclingnews from the company's US offices.
"We're proud of Team RadioShack's results at the Amgen Tour of California and US Pro Championships, but have not discussed our plans for 2012 at this point," he said. Bruner was also adamant that this decision was independent of allegations surrounding the high profile American. "We have an ongoing relationship with Lance Armstrong," he added.
Public Relations problems
It may be that the relationship with Armstrong is causing the company problems however.
Cyclingnews also spoke to Sydney PR firm Ogilvy about the effect of the allegations on the company's image and the most logical way forward.
"The number and detail of allegations are now making it more difficult for Armstrong himself and the companies he is associated with to simply brush off," said media director Sam North.
"A tipping point may have been reached - and if it has that will make sponsors very nervous. [RadioShack and Nike] will be watching the situation very closely."
North drew parallels with a number of recent sporting scandals including those of which involved Marion Jones, Tiger Woods and Barry Bonds.
"For [Tiger] Woods the allegations themselves didn’t even involve cheating on the golf course - and you can see how quickly sponsors withdrew in that case," he continued. "The situation may well come down to the contract situation itself. If they have a possible escape clause they may well take it - if not they may just shelve their current campaigns involving him."
RadioShack and LIVESTRONG
RadioShack have in fact done just this. The American has not been involved directly in any marketing for the company in a number of months. One possible strategy would be to attempt to sever the synonomous image of Armstrong and LIVESTRONG, and instead focus solely on the latter. Bruner heavily highlighted RadioShack's involvement with LIVESTRONG when Cyclingnews talked to him, and glossed over the Armstrong connection.
"A key focus of our work with the team has always been about supporting LIVESTRONG in the global fight against cancer and connecting our customers, associates and stores in this fight," Bruner said.
Sam North was slightly more cynical, concluding; "They have to look at it and consider what it is doing to their brand as a whole. If Nike or RadioShack feel that the public sentiment towards Armstrong has changed they will be likely to change their ties."