Nike has decided to end its sponsorship deal with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity Livestrong, but will still support it financially, the sports products giant said Tuesday.
Nike will stop making products with the Livestrong name beyond 2013, the global brand said, a few hours after the Livestrong Foundation announced the end of their partnership.
“Nike has made the decision to stop producing new Livestrong products after its Holiday 2013 line,” it said in a statement, noting that it has distributed some 87 million distinctive yellow Livestrong wristbands.
But Nike added: “We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation by funding them directly as they continue their work serving and improving outcomes for people facing cancer.”
The Austin, Texas based Livestrong Foundation thanked Nike — which broke all ties with Armstrong himself last October — saying it had helped raise over US$100 million for the charity since 2004.
The foundation “is deeply grateful to Nike not only for the time and resources it invested in helping us improve the lives of people affected by cancer… but also the creative drive it brought to our nine-year partnership.
“While the Foundation created and owns the Livestrong brand, Nike shone a spotlight on the spirit of courage and resilience it represents,” it said in a statement.
The charity played down the potential impact on Livestrong, saying: “This news will prompt some to jump to negative conclusions about the Foundation’s future.
“We see things quite differently. We expected and planned for changes like this and are therefore in a good position to adjust swiftly and move forward with our patient-focused work.
“Because of our sound fiscal health, the Foundation is well-positioned to continue to grow our free services for cancer patients and survivors that improve quality of life and access to care.”
It added: “Because 14 million Americans face the daily challenges of living with cancer, our mission has never been more critical and for some, it will mean the difference between life and death.”
Armstrong was an inspirational figure for millions after recovering from testicular cancer and then winning the world’s most celebrated cycling event, the Tour de France, seven times in a row.
But the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) banned Armstrong and took away his titles last year after he chose not to fight the doping accusations. He admitted taking banned performance enhancing substances in an interview with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey in January.
Despite Tuesday’s announcement, Nike insisted: “We are proud of the collective efforts between Nike and the Livestrong Foundation to raise more than US$100 million to help people with cancer.”
The partnership had also helped improve health outcomes for more than 2.5 million people “with free cancer support services, programs, tools and resources,” it said.