Lance Armstrong has arrived in New Zealand to film an advertisement – or rather, as the admen put it, a “cautionary tale” – for the makers of Steinlager beer. Public reaction has unsurprisingly been mixed and a local marketing expert has said that the use of such a divisive personality is a risk for the brand.
Armstrong will feature in an ad that goes by the name ‘The Consequence’ which, according to Newstalk ZB, will address how much someone risks losing when they adopt a win at all costs mentality.
Lion Breweries decided that Armstrong – banned from competitive cycling for life, stripped of his seven Tour de France wins and embroiled in a potentially ruinous lawsuit – was the perfect man for the job.
Before losing millions of dollars of income from sponsorship and ad deals after his lifetime ban in 2012, Armstrong advertised the US lager brand Michelob Ultra, which has an alcohol by volume content of 4.2 per cent.
Endorsing Steinlager, with its ABV of 5 per cent, could therefore be seen in some way as a move onto the harder stuff.
We doubt though that he’ll be progressing to crack open a bottle of Jack Daniel’s with Floyd Landis, who blamed binging on the Bourbon for his failed drugs test at the 2006 Tour de France.
His former team mate and fellow disqualified yellow jersey winner is also the instigator of the whistleblower lawsuit against him alleging misuse of federal funds, which could cost Armstrong up to $100 million.
Landis himself has set up a business in partnership with ex-pro David Zabriskie that sells cannabis-infused products in Colorado, where the drug has been legal for recreational use since 2014.
A Lion Breweries company spokeswoman said: "We are using Lance to tell a cautionary tale called 'The Consequence' which depicts how much you stand to lose when you pursue success at all costs. We wanted to highlight that actions have consequences and we couldn't think of anyone better to demonstrate that."
However, Canterbury University's Associate Professor of Marketing Ekant Veer told Newstalk ZB that Armstrong was “a really odd choice.”
He said Lion would have done a lot of thinking about what sort of story they wanted to tell and what celebrity they could use to tell that story.
"We have heard that Lance is here to support Steinlager in particular and we know that one of Lion’s brands is Steinlager Pure and to have a drugs cheat here to support a brand that has one of their brands being Pure is a little bit of an odd choice."
Veer went on to say that the old adage that ‘all publicity is good publicity’ was something of an old-school way of thinking. “When you’ve got a personality who’s that divisive, you’re going to be taking a risk with your marketing.”
Earlier today, several hundred people took Armstrong up on a Twitter invitation to join him for a waterfront ride in Auckland.
The Guardian reports that numbers were sufficient for trucks bringing goods in and out of the nearby Auckland Port to be held up by the riders.
Additional reporting by Alex Bowden.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.