“Advertising is a tax for having an unremarkable product” said Robert Stephens, Founder and ‘Chief Inspector’ of the Geek Squad. (Gordon Ramsay said the same in his brilliant and inspirational book, Playing with Fire.) Well, Lance Armstrong could also shout the infamous ‘Advertising is dead, long live PR.’
After much will he, wont he, the incredible Lance Armstrong news ‘leaked’ on 8th Sept that he is indeed coming out of retirement. He’ll raise further awareness for cancer by racing in the 2009 Tour de France, having won it an unprecedented seven times already.
The story was meant to be a first for Vanity Fair magazine, penned by Douglas Brinkley, a resident in Armstrong’s hometown of Austin, Texas. The two are acquaintances but far from best friends and I suspect Brinkley was offered first dibbs because of local patriotism.
But Velonews.com pressed ‘Post’ before VF got anywhere near pressing ‘Print’ on their November issue that was due out on 1st October. As usual in 2008, the blogosphere picked up the scent and it travelled the world in minutes (okay, maybe an hour or two) without needing to go near a television set. VF’s hand was forced and they posted the article online and pulled it from print altogether. The official launch was – intended and actual – the 24th September but there was little ‘news’ about it.
I can’t help but think Lance and his team (PR not bike) wanted it this way. It’s not yet clear who Velonews’ sources were, but Lance (such adoration of this demigod affords me the etiquette of first names) had posted a short video on his LiveStrong blog by 9th Sept.
I’m not saying Lance intended to embarrass Vanity Fair or their reporter, I’m saying a story THAT big doesn’t stay embargoed for long. If one can deduce that, then why not play the game a bit and milk the extra coverage of the scoop being scooped?
Regardless of launch strategies, Lance on a bike in Paris again will give next year’s tour a massive injection of energy and interest (and hopefully less dope). Best of all, it will also guarantee a sea-change in exposure for this killer disease.
Allez, Lance and good luck.
photo by Annie Leibovitz for the December 1999 issue of Vanity Fair