With Nike’s help, Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong cancer charity turned a little yellow wristband into a global symbol for cancer survivors.
Celebrities and rock stars sported them on stage. Politicians wore them on the campaign trail and in the White House. And with Armstrong dominating the Tour de France, the trendy little pieces of plastic helped Livestrong pump millions of dollars in cancer survivor programs and spawned countless imitations.
But that partnership, which started in 2004, will soon end. Livestrong announced Tuesday the shoe and apparel company is cutting ties with the charity in the latest fallout from the former cyclist’s doping scandal.
Nike said it will stop making its Livestrong line of apparel after the 2013 holiday season. Foundation and company officials said Nike will honor the financial terms of its contract until the deal expires in 2014.
Those terms were not disclosed, but the loss of revenue could have a huge financial impact on the charity. The partnership with Nike generated more than $100 million of the roughly $500 million raised by Livestrong since it was founded in 1997.
“While 2013 will be tougher than past years, the Livestrong Foundation views it as a rebuilding year in which it charts a strong, independent course,” the charity said in a statement.
Experts were divided whether Nike’s withdrawal would cripple the charity.
“It’s very damaging. It’s a significant signal to the market place that if your largest supporter says ‘I’m going to check out,’ it’s something that is likely to continue to spiral,” said Kelly O’Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.