Nike cutting ties to Livestrong charity

AUSTIN, Texas - With Nike's help, Lance Armstrong's Livestrong cancer charity turned a little yellow wristband into a global symbol for cancer survivors. But Livestrong announced Tuesday the shoe and apparel company is cutting ties with the charity in the latest fallout from the former cyclist's doping scandal.

Nike said it will stop making its Livestrong line of apparel after the 2013 holiday season. Foundation and company officials said Nike will honor the financial terms of its contract until the deal expires in 2014.

Those terms were not disclosed, but the loss of revenue could have a huge financial impact on the charity. The partnership with Nike generated more than $100 million of the roughly $500 million raised by Livestrong since it was founded in 1997. The partnership with Nike started in 2004.

"While 2013 will be tougher than past years, the Livestrong Foundation views it as a rebuilding year in which it charts a strong, independent course," the charity said in a statement.

The charity insisted it remains on solid financial ground. "This news will prompt some to jump to negative conclusions about the foundation's future. We see things quite differently," the foundation said.

The organization reduced its budget nearly 11 percent in 2013 to $38.4 million, but it said Tuesday that revenue is already 2.5 percent ahead of projections.

Less than a year ago, the Nike-Livestrong-Armstrong connection was arguably one of the strongest in the field of sports marketing.

Armstrong was the feel-good story of the cancer survivor who returned to dominate a grueling sport. His success in the Tour de France -- winning the race every year from 1999 to 2005 -- helped turn the small charity he started into a growing force, and it moved to a new level when Nike started churning out the wristbands in 2004.

Nike stood by Armstrong and Livestrong for years as the cyclist denied accusations of drug use. But the relationship soured last year when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report accusing Armstrong of leading a complex doping program on his U.S. Postal Service teams.

Nike dropped its personal sponsorship of Armstrong last October. The company said it had been duped for more than a decade about his doping, but it stuck with the foundation.

Livestrong did what it could to separate itself from its founder's problems. Armstrong was pushed off the board of directors in October, and the organization later changed its formal from the original Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Armstrong declined comment Tuesday, noting he no longer has a relationship with Livestrong or Nike.
 

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