New Darden Case Explores the Health of Nonprofit LIVESTRONG After Creator, Lance Armstrong, Admits Doping
Source Newsroom: University of Virginia Darden School Foundation
Newswise — CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — A new case released by Darden Business Publishing, LIVESTRONG: Cycling Around Lance Armstrong, focuses on the LIVESTRONG Foundation, created by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong after his own bout with cancer. Armstrong was stripped of his seven medals late last year for using performance-enhancing drugs.
LIVESTRONG: Cycling Around Lance Armstrong is a valuable teaching resource because it engages students in an active discussion about a real business problem and its possible solutions.
Through the case Erika James, senior associate dean for Executive Education and professor of business administration, offers a glimpse into the concerns and questions faced by the leaders of the LIVESTRONG Foundation and how they should approach communicating with their primary stakeholders — cancer patients — after their founder’s loss of the public’s trust.
“This case can teach us a lot about getting out in front of communication. The LIVESTRONG organization did nothing wrong, but they could be perceived as guilty by association and that needs to be managed just as if they were in fact the guilty party,” said James, who is an expert in managing and leading through crisis.
James also noted that this case presents a lesson about the risks of organizations associating with high-profile people. Companies, such as Nike, that use famous athletes or celebrities to endorse products face this same risk.
After years of speculation and investigations, Lance Armstrong finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The highly anticipated confession took place In January of this year.
“People are human, and by extension fallible,” James said. “Tying an organization’s brand to a well-known figure is a risk that must be managed.”
James, co-author of the book Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving, Before, During and After a Crisis, met with a few of the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s leaders. Like many, these leaders felt disappointment.
“There was a personal friendship between them and Lance,” added James. “That friendship felt undermined after Lance’s admissions of impropriety.”
James also observed that LIVESTRONG always “lived” its calling as a cancer-support organization, and avoided living in the spotlight of Armstrong. She feels that their culture of staying dedicated to the cause could bode well for them.
“Since the controversy they have been working hard to double-down on their communication efforts around the mission — to serve the needs of people with cancer,” James explained. “The leaders I spoke with were clearly nervous about the possibility of fallout from Lance’s controversy, but focused on moving forward.”
In mid July, 198 riders cycled through the 3,404 kilometers that made up the 2013 Tour de France bicycle race. Quietly, in the background, memories of the event’s highly celebrated competitor and his fall from grace lingered. Soon, students will discuss and debate ways for the LIVESTRONG Foundation to keep living strong.
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The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case study method, top-ranked faculty whose research advances global managerial practice and business education, and a tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who are ready to make an impact.
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Darden Business Publishing was founded in 2003 to provide superior classroom content for the Darden classroom, and to distribute knowledge and ideas from the Darden School across the globe. Today, Darden Business Publishing’s catalog contains over 3,000 cases, technical notes, exercises, books and simulations used in over 130 countries around the world, making it the second largest case publisher in the United States.