And a “Support for Lance” website is appealing to the “millions of Lance Armstrong fans all over the world — it’s time that this international hero gets some support when he needs it most!” (The Armstrong camp says the cyclist is not behind the website and has not been contacted by the site’s operators.)
Armstrong’s corporate sponsors — including Nike, RadioShack Corp., 24-hour fitness and Trek bikes — have stuck with him. He recently shot a new commercial for Michelob Ultra.
Yet analysts are divided over whether Armstrong’s image is taking a hit because of the doping investigation.
Armstrong ranked about average in popularity among sports figures, according to a survey conducted by the Q Scores Co. in August and September.
“There’s no indication that his negative recognition has grown at an alarming rate, unlike other athletes like Tiger Woods, where the negatives went through the roof. He’s nowhere near that kind of disaster,” said Henry Schafer, the executive vice president of Q Scores.
But Zeta Interactive, a marketing firm that tracks looks online to see how people are being viewed, found Armstrong has fallen far from his perch as one of the most popular athletes the agency has ever tracked.
Zeta measured Armstrong at 92 percent popularity in 2008, and he was at 86 percent in July before the start of his final Tour de France. That number dropped to 51 percent in August when the federal investigation ramped up and has bumped only slightly to 55 percent in recent weeks.
“He’s flirting with 50-50,” said Zeta Interactive CEO Al DiGuido. “For someone trying to build themself as a brand, that’s not a good place to be.”
“There’s an old saying in Washington: You never kick a man when he’s up. When someone’s popular and you take him on, you’re going to lose,” Grabowski said.
Merlis isn’t so sure.
“Urine samples from France will determine that,” Merlis said, referring to the French doping agency’s offer last week to send urine samples from the 1999 tour to U.S. investigators. French sports daily L’Equipe reported in 2005 that Armstrong’s backup samples from 1999 contained EPO — a banned blood-boosting hormone. Armstrong was cleared by an independent panel.
As public as Armstrong has been, there are limits.
Because of the investigation, Armstrong’s reps said he would not be available for comment. Armstrong leaves it to Fabiani, an attorney and public relations specialist, to immediately and aggressively respond to any allegations of drug use reported in the investigation.
That’s in sharp contrast to baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, who held a long and combative news conference with reporters to deny allegations of steroid use.View Entire Story
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