Lance Armstrong and the LIVESTRONG Foundation—also called the Lance Armstrong Foundation—have been under serious pressure in recent weeks, in light of reports regarding the alleged use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs and techniques by Lance Armstrong and his colleagues in the professional cycling peloton.
To those who follow professional cycling, the situation is disappointing, maddening, and fuzzy.
But what is not at issue is the success of the LIVESTRONG foundation since its inception in 2004. In a nutshell, LIVESTRONG’s nontraditional marketing campaigns, first in the form of those little yellow wristbands, and now through a variety of social media tools and online giving, represent one of the most successful charitable and cause-oriented campaigns in history.
As a traditional nonprofit, LIVESTRONG has been a leader in philanthropy. It was launched in 2004 to battle cancer and provide support services for cancer patients. But when its yellow wristband campaign was developed by Nike and launched by Wieden+Kennedy, it really separated itself as a marketing powerhouse. Here are some staggering facts.
- As celebrities and politicians began wearing wristbands in support of the cause—and as it became hard-to-get fashion accessory—demand skyrocketed. Eight million were sold in the first three months alone, raising $8 million for charity.
- To date, more than 85 million wristbands have been sold worldwide, generating $100 million in donations.
- LIVESTRONG has raised more than $470 million, with 81% directly funding its programs and services. Just 5% of its revenues go to administration expenses.
- As of 2012, LIVESTRONG DAY had held more than 1,300 fundraising and awards events in 65 countries. Events are typically held on October 2nd, the day Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer.
- LIVESTRONG has served more than 2.3 million cancer survivors through its medical support and service programs.
LIVESTRONG has also become a social media authority. Its Twitter handle (@Livestrong) has 411,000 followers, @LivestrongCEO has 1,000,000 followers, and Lance Armstrong (@LanceArmstrong) has 3,700,000 followers. LIVESTRONG has 1.7 million Facebook followers.
Those afflicted by cancer are especially active in the groundswell, with results demonstrated by the efforts of organizations like the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. LIVESTRONG’s strategy stands out here, too. About three years ago it hired an Online Community Evangelist to head up its social media efforts, with impressive results, particularly on Twitter.
One donor made a bet with LIVESTRONG’s CEO, Doug Ulman: reach 25,000 new Twitter followers in three days, and I’ll make a $25,000 donation. LIVESTRONG won—and used an online poll to let its supporters decide how to use the money.
A cancer survivor who happened to own the handle @Drew contacted LIVESTRONG and “donated” his handle, to be used as a fundraiser auction item. Comedian Drew Carey not only offered to buy the handle, but offered to donate $1 for every new follower he got, up to $1 million.
What is most impressive about LIVESTRONG’s social media strategy is how it engages followers on a grassroots level. It has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace. But it shows real groundswell thinking in the way it encourages its followers to promote the message. Tag your posts LIVESTRONG, and the organization will follow you. It selects the best content to promote through its owner Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr feeds—generating even more buzz throughout the community.
Here’s a final thought.