I understand the morals clauses in contracts. I might not particularly like them – being morally ambiguous and all myself – but they make sense: you signed a contract with PETA; wearing a coon-skin bikini really would be a bad decision.
Had Lance given his Oprah confession while simultaneously receiving a pay cheque from sponsors, then sure, company lawyers could point to Clause 463, subsection whatever, and dump him. With this I’d have no qualms.
But we’re talking about a very different situation here.
As I type, sponsors are undoubtedly having sit-downs with their legal teams, working out how best to profiteer and indulge in the big ol’ double-dip. Because, afterall, this is precisely what any law suit against him would be: sponsors having their cake and eating it.
Lance partaking of the juice was not a recent rumour. For the years and years that he smelt a little like EPO, a little too testosterone-y, sponsors happily threw cash at him. They conducted their own cost-benefit analysis amidst extensive speculation – as does any company before picking a tout – and still chose him.
Because even under the cloud of substance abuse concerns, the corporate decision was that Armstrong would be a brand asset. Fans saw him as a hero, elevating him to that pedestal reserved only for athletes and boy bands. And sponsors cashed in on it: the Armstrong juggernaut peddled barrows full of merchandise and all was well.
Flash forward a few years and sponsors suddenly want their money back. Far worse than the stench of synthetic testosterone is that of moralistic opportunism.
Under contract, Lance made sponsors money. Shoes and t-shirts and other assorted crap got sold, contracts got renewed, money was spent, money was banked. That’s called business.
On what possible grounds do sponsors now think they have a right to ask for a refund? To ask for more than a return on their initial spend?
The very reason sponsors bought a piece of Armstrong was because he was useful in personalising their ideals: Lance was chosen because he embodied performance, dedication, success. Had they wanted someone who could not tell a lie, then they should have gone with George Washington. They choose Lance because he was all about the win.
And it worked. Consumers looked at the Lance package and decided – as evidenced by them buying and donning the Armstrong wares – that they too aspired to these ideals.
Companies made money out of him and consumers, while wearing the shoes and those curious rubber bracelet things, got their much-desired connection to their hero.
Where’s the fraud?
Who hasn’t read an interview with a much-respected actor/author/whoever and choked on their toast when they read that he/she’s a Scientologist?
Who hasn’t bought a skincare product and not suddenly looked like Cindy Crawford/Elle McPherson/Miranda Kerr?
Who hasn’t looked across the table at someone and thought, yeah, you’re really not the person I thought you were.
And yet none of us are greedy enough to expect refunds or compensation for our time or bruised egos.
All marketing is about smoke, mirrors and a whole lotta wishful thinking.
I’m not a legal theorist and I’m sure the shysters will find some spectacularly ingenuous grounds for a cash-grab. Me and I think, well, the bloke wasn’t all he said he was and his product didn’t quite match up to the hype. So what? That’s called life. Suck it up.