Lance Armstrong, Coca-Cola, and their PR objectives

This post was first published by Mike Griffin on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

Monday, January 14, 2013 was quite the entertaining day for the ethically inclined. Not only did disgraced professional cyclist Lance Armstrong confess his use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to Oprah, but apparently Coca-Cola is now on the front lines of the war against obesity in America. These are two very different announcements, spurred by two different agendas, but both warrant a closer look from a public relations perspective.

Rumors of seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong using PEDs were really nothing new.However, something seemed different when the accusation surfaced this past summer. Having vehemently denied allegations for years, Armstrong finally came clean yesterday during his meeting with Oprah. Will this confession help to put him back in the public’s favor, or will his career be forever marred, like other professional athletes such as Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Tiger Woods? I think the latter, but welcome any disputes in the comments.

Meanwhile, in a great twist of irony, Coca-Cola is now doing their part in the war against obesity. What exactly does that entail? Coke has begun prominently displaying the number of calories contained within one drink on the front of each can or bottle. Additionally, a stronger push is being made to advertise the fact that the company offers smaller sizes than the standard 12 oz beverage, thus there are less calories in these drinks. Of course, there are always diet sodas, but that sparks an entirely different debate about the contents of soda and their impact on your health. Does Coca-Cola actually care about the level of obesity in America, or is the subliminal objective of this new campaign to generate revenue via increased sales in its alternative products? It’s an interesting conversation to have.

What do you think? Are Coca-Cola and Lance Armstrong really trying to do the right thing, or is there an ulterior motive behind each party’s recent PR efforts?

©William Perugini/123RF.COM

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