Armstrong faces tough climb to redemption: marketing experts

Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:28am EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong faces a tough battle to salvage his image as the usual strategy by fallen stars of confession, apology and making amends may not be enough to appease an angry public, according to crisis management experts.

Banned for life and stripped of his race titles, Armstrong will break his silence over his alleged drug use in an interview aired on Thursday with the queen of confessions, U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

The silence was seen by some as a deliberate move to allow for all the accusations to be made against him so he could prepare himself for any possible question and then go public to explain himself in a controlled and friendly environment with Oprah.

But experts in public relations and crisis management said Armstrong's bid for forgiveness was far from guaranteed to succeed due to the unprecedented scale of the scandal after authorities uncovered a decade of drug use and lying.

Armstrong became an international hero and inspiration after surviving cancer to win seven Tour de France titles and set up the Livestrong cancer foundation while aggressively pursuing anyone who tried to expose his cheating.

Edward Adler, partner at RLMFinsbury that specializes in crisis management, said Armstrong needed to kickstart his attempt to regain support by taking full responsibility for his actions, apologizing unreservedly and sincerely with Oprah.

"The jury will be out on whether this works or not because there are so many other issues here, with law suits and other stakeholders, and he needs to convince people that he is a good guy," said Alder.

"But if he wants to compete again, and it appears that he does, then he has to try to put this behind him. But this is a very difficult one for people to get over."   Continued...

Seven-time Tour de France winner Team Radioshack rider Lance Armstrong waits at the starting line in Visalia, California of stage five of the Amgen Tour of California in a May 20, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante/files