There’s got to be some lessons in the fall from grace of heroes like Lance Armstrong. One is that we seem to like our heroes imperfect. You could argue that the higher you go the bigger the fall, but somehow it doesn’t seem to work that way when you are a little bigger than life. As Nike and RadioShack and Anheuser-Busch are in full retreat, the fans see things a little differently.
They see someone who has struggled against incredible odds and used his battle with cancer to inspire hundreds of thousands of people to fight even harder. In the words of one fan, “I don’t ever remember [Armstrong] shooting for sainthood.” The doping thing, in their eyes, it’s a molehill next to the mountain of the man. So for Armstrong, maybe this will be one more challenge, one more opportunity to shed some baggage and shoot for something even higher.
This also makes me think of Bill Clinton, publically shamed and impeached, a fallen idol to some, like Al Gore, who refused Clinton’s help when he was running for the White House. But Clinton had a way with the folks. He cared about ordinary people. He had a glint in his eye. He never took himself too seriously. And look at his trajectory after he was impeached.
What do Lance Armstrong and Bill Clinton have in common? An unwavering conviction in something bigger than themselves. If they were stocks, they’d be as big as Apple. Because people don’t want to be handed a line of bullshit. They want the straight story. They want heroes who will outlive the next news cycle. And they want brands that believe in something – brands that don’t turn and run when the chips are down.