The high cost of riding around in brightly-colored underwear
September 4, 2009 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Why is (Radio) Shack -- a company that only markets to North Americans -- spending $20 million sponsoring Lance Armstrong and his team as he spends a year racing bicycles mostly in Europe? "Somewhere, someone has a Venn diagram showing the crossover between electronics geeks and cyclists. I’m sure those two sets have a lot of crossover."

There are only twenty available slots for UCI ProTour teams, the creme de la creme of bike racing -- eighteen were filled in the 2009, leaving two openings and only room for more if an existing team decides against renewing, is disqualified or disbands.

(Radio) Shack's signing Armstrong is certain to ensure that publicity reaches beyond the fairly narrow market of American pro cycling enthusiasts, but whether that connotes positive publicity for the sponsor, or remains focused around Armstrong, is yet to be seen -- certainly the oligarchs of Kazakhistan didn't find their profiles improved among the American public while they supported Armstrong's previous team, Team Astana. Also interesting to note are the debuts of Team Sky (as in the Murdoch-owned Sky Satellite TV) and Skil-Shimano (as in chain saws and fishing reels), which put in a surprisingly high profile performance as a wildcard team in this year's Tour de France.
posted by ardgedee (78 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The Venn diagram for electronics geeks and Radio Shack customers shows the crossover is essentially zero.
posted by Nelson at 8:27 AM on September 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


Speculation is that the Shack is planning to enter the European market.
posted by caddis at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2009


It bought them a spot on the front page of MetaFilter...
posted by DU at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bike geeks do like gadgets though, so there's that. I think it's a pretty decent move for The Shack. They would never sponsor a team that didn't have Armstrong, because no other team is going to generate such interest and coverage stateside. And I don't know what Astana is or does, but I thought they were Spanish!

*googles*

Aha! Astana is a city! Weird.
posted by Mister_A at 8:31 AM on September 4, 2009


Anyone who "has a Venn diagram" is pretty much in the demographic already, no?
posted by rokusan at 8:32 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


RS/The Shack are certainly flailing around aimlessly this year. I've bought a USB HD enclosure and a digital TV antenna there over the years but Amazon is always a better solution if you can wait a few days. And while we're here - any word on whether they've discontinued the free battery of the month club for kids? How about the coupons for free flashlights in the catalogs?
posted by porn in the woods at 8:32 AM on September 4, 2009


Even CEO Can't Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business
posted by rocket88 at 8:34 AM on September 4, 2009


"a company that only markets to North Americans"
There's your error right there. I walked past one in Edinburgh last week.
posted by genghis at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2009


There's your error right there. I walked past one in Edinburgh last week.

Are you sure of that? I thought they sold their nascent UK operation to Maplin (or was it Carphone Warehouse?) some time in the 1980s.
posted by acb at 8:38 AM on September 4, 2009


Yeah, Edinburgh, NORTH AMERICA.
posted by DU at 8:38 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


And I don't know what Astana is or does, but I thought they were Spanish!

It's the capital city of Kazakhstan, paid for by a conglomeration of Kazakh industries (oil, gas, railways) and the Kazakh cycling federation. It was supposed to be a team for Kazakh cyclists, based around Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin. When they both got busted for doping, it sorta morphed into a Spanish-Belgian team, but now the Kazakhs want it back -- hence the mass exodus of all the non-Kazakh riders except Alberto Contador (who is virtually being held hostage at the moment).
posted by afx237vi at 8:38 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


> There's your error right there. I walked past one in Edinburgh last week.

You got me. Radio Shack's website doesn't list any franchisees in the U.K., and most of the rest on the list are reselling Radio Shack's products (Optimus, Archer, etc.) under their own umbrellas.
posted by ardgedee at 8:46 AM on September 4, 2009


Management /= employees, or customer base.

A business that my sister worked for donated a couple of million dollars to the "save the Winnipeg Jets" cause way back when, despite her and nearly everyone else on the payroll being on a wage freeze for years. Why? Because management were fans. (so were most of the employees, but, you know, they might have preferred a bit more economic freedom to another season in a mostly-empty arena)

So maybe this is business strategy. And maybe it's just the old boys pumping money into something they love and trying to justify it. It wouldn't surprise me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:55 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


While I’m not convinced that this is the best move for RadioShack, I think the idea that this is only targeting the small overlap of electronics geeks and cyclists is too simplistic. When riding in the tour or even preparing for it Lance Armstrong generates a lot of publicity here in the states. From inspirational fluff pieces to the sports section of the local newspaper and TV news broadcast, his head with accompanying TheShack cap will get plastered everywhere. Moreover, RadioShack does not solely cater to the electronics geek crowd, they generate (or at least have in the past) a lot of profit from cell phone sales.

Whether this move will generate positive publicity for RadioShack I can not say. However comparing it to the lack of positive publicity generated for the oligarchs of Kazakhistan is like comparing apples and orangutans.

I can see the correlation between the Sky and RadioShack sponsorships (both being unrelated to cycling), but why throw Skil-Shimano in there? Shimano is probably the largest bike component manufacturer in the world.
posted by batou_ at 8:58 AM on September 4, 2009


genghis, do you mean the one on Nicolson Street? I've always wondered about that shop.
posted by primer_dimer at 9:03 AM on September 4, 2009


Why is Radio Shack . . .

still in business?
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:05 AM on September 4, 2009


Also, I don't think Radio Shack's primary market is "electronics geeks," and it hasn't been in decades. I think it's poor people.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:06 AM on September 4, 2009


probably because this search only gets 337 hits. It's all about the google.
posted by HuronBob at 9:07 AM on September 4, 2009


There many not be tons of cycling (the sport) fans in North America, but there are lots and lots of cyclists in general. Armstrong is an icon in the states, and once a year people do catch bits of the Tour, talk about the Tour, and generally know that it's going on (as long as Armstrong is in it).

Also I bet it's a lot cheaper to sponsor than NASCAR?
posted by cell divide at 9:08 AM on September 4, 2009


Radio Shack had an extensive chain of stores in the UK under the "Tandy" brand. The whole lot were shut down in the late 1990s.
posted by cillit bang at 9:11 AM on September 4, 2009


It bought them a spot on the front page of MetaFilter...

They "bought" a spot on the front page in August when they changed their name to "The Shack," and there was the same amount of nostalgia for the old days of RS, plus confusion about how they're still in business.

My guess: old folks remember that RS has electronic-type equipment, and go there in a pinch, shelling out $80 for a HD cable when they need one NOW, instead of paying less than $5 to have one shipped from an Amazon re-seller with thousands of positive reviews.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2009


First of all, I think Radio Shack's re-branding as "The Shack" is one of the lamest advertising attempts everywhere. When I hear "shack," I think of hobos and shantytowns.

Secondly, that Onion article was hilarious. And oh so true.

Perhaps the company is trying to add some spark to an otherwise moribund brand. I don't see how "The Shack" and biking match up though. Not at all.
posted by elder18 at 9:18 AM on September 4, 2009


From the press release:
"Teaming up with RadioShack makes sense for a number of reasons. For one, it's very appealing to me that they have a huge base of stores throughout the U.S. and Mexico. We have an incredible opportunity to leverage RadioShack's connection to tens of millions of people to spread the LIVESTRONG message," said Armstrong. "Also, in cycling, the technology we use on our bikes matters - it allows us to compete at the highest level. It's important to me to partner with a brand that understands the role technology plays in people's lives."

"RadioShack keeps people connected in a highly mobile world through innovative technology from leading brands," said Lee Applbaum, RadioShack's Chief Marketing Officer. "As one of the greatest athletes of our generation, a father, a cancer survivor, and a tireless advocate in the fight against cancer, Lance Armstrong understands the power of keeping people connected and that's why we feel he's the perfect partner for our brand. "

"This is an exciting time at RadioShack," added Applbaum. "We are re-launching our brand with a new creative platform in early August, and now having Lance on our team - an American icon who embodies the spirit of mobility, connectivity and philanthropy - really allows us to accelerate our brand's evolution."
But [I think] what it comes down to is this: Lance wanted his own team. For as much as he and Contador were butting heads at the TdF, this seems only natural. He needed Astana to get back into the sport, and now that he's figured out that he's still got it, he's branching out on his own.
posted by alynnk at 9:20 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why does it cost $20 million to ride a bicycle?
posted by crayz at 9:21 AM on September 4, 2009


Wasn't his team once sponsored by the US Postal Service? The idea that "bike races are in Europe so only European sponsors make sense" doesn't seem to be a truth. Especially for Armstrong.
posted by smackfu at 9:23 AM on September 4, 2009


Why does it cost $20 million to ride a bicycle?

It doesn't. It costs $20 million to run a pro cycling team... that comprises 25 cyclists, maybe a dozen members of staff (managers, drivers, masseurs, mechanics), buses, cars, accommodation, flights all over the world, and all the other stuff that is needed for any sports team. Lance Armstrong didn't win all those races on his own. Cycling is every bit as much a team sport as football or baseball.
posted by afx237vi at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The opinions in the front page post matched my thoughts exactly from the moment it was announced. Why sponsor a worldwide team? Do they even have 20-30mil to spend on a real team? It's funny that weeks later, there are still few answers.
posted by mathowie at 9:46 AM on September 4, 2009


> Why does it cost $20 million to ride a bicycle?

That's for the salaries and care of several dozen bicycle riders, their support staff, equipment, food, lodging, and transportation across three or four continents for a few years (Skil-Shimano, which will be of the smaller ProTour teams, has 22 riders on its roster and 20 support staff, including five mechanics and two doctors), frequently having different team members in different races in different countries simultaneously.

Keep in mind that The Shack will be the name sponsor (they get to design the team uniforms, cars, and so on), but there will also be other companies providing money, equipment and services in exchange for less prominent marks: You can count on the Nike swoosh and Trek to continue to appear on Lance's chest or shirt sleeves, and that's never for free. If anything it's surprising if some teams can manage to operate for four seasons at that level on less than $20 M.
posted by ardgedee at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2009


The Shack will rebuild Lance Armstrong. Because it has the technology.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2009


All I know is that Island Hoppers should sponsor Magnum again. Turning around and running against the flow in that last leg was the best thing that could have happened, publicity-wise.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2009


Lance Armstrong is a brand name worth $20 million. At least that's what they're betting on.

Lance Armstrong is dashing and smart and determined and generally awesome. This is the opposite of The Shack's current image, which is wonky and hapless and disorganized and generally pathetic.

It is hard to imagine a less-like-Lance-Armstrong store chain than The Shack, and that includes the stores that sell giant white cotton cone-shaped bras to old ladies.

It's so crazy, it just might work.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2009


I tip my vintage 7-11 cycling cap to you, ardgedee. Nice post.
posted by fixedgear at 9:55 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


We have an incredible opportunity to leverage RadioShack's connection to tens of millions of people to spread the LIVESTRONG message," said Armstrong.

What the hell IS the "LIVESTRONG" message? (besides personal branding for Lance). The yellow bracelets, special rooms at Nike Town etc. just baffle me. I'm glad he dumped Sheryl Crow, but really....
posted by msalt at 9:56 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


genghis, do you mean the one on Nicolson Street? I've always wondered about that shop.

Sure enough, right next to Oxfam...
posted by cosmac at 9:59 AM on September 4, 2009


This is nitpicking, I suppose, but it's a bit disingenuous to peg the Shimano half of Skil-Shimano as primarily a manufacturer of fishing reels. Shimano is the premier manufacturer of cycling components (gears, derailleurs, brakes, etc.) the world over. According to Wikipedia, it has about a 50% market share. I'm not sure what Skil is doing supporting a cycling team; maybe trying to cut into the Husqvarna/Jonsored European market share?
posted by lhputtgrass at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


What the hell IS the "LIVESTRONG" message? (besides personal branding for Lance)

I'm also baffled by their confusing, poorly-focused "Stop cancer" message. I mean, what exactly does that even mean? Stop? As in - "Hey, you, halt!" or maybe "Stop doing that, Cancer!" And which cancer? Breast cancer? Lung cancer? Brain cancer? That's ridiculous.
posted by incessant at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2009


> it's a bit disingenuous to peg the Shimano ... as a manufacturer of fishing reels.

I doubt anybody could write a legitimate post about bike racing while being completely ignorant of Shimano's dominance in cycling equipment, so the "fishing reels" thing was meant as a joke - I'm sorry for not setting it up well.
posted by ardgedee at 10:21 AM on September 4, 2009


...Alberto Contador... is virtually being held hostage [by Astana] at the moment.

And I hope he stays hostage -- he deserves not one iota of success and is a petulant, immature brat of a rider. I still smile at the memory of Contador on the Col de la Colombiere desperately looking over his shoulder, wondering if Kloden would be able to make contact again and help him after Contador had dropped him himself. What a maroon.
posted by incessant at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm also baffled by their confusing, poorly-focused "Stop cancer" message. I mean, what exactly does that even mean? Stop? As in - "Hey, you, halt!" or maybe "Stop doing that, Cancer!" And which cancer? Breast cancer? Lung cancer? Brain cancer? That's ridiculous.

Have you become so bitter that you have to attack an anti-cancer advertisement?
posted by Deep Dish at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what Skil is doing supporting a cycling team; maybe trying to cut into the Husqvarna/Jonsored European market share?

Durn Bronzefist alluded to it earlier in the thread, but sometimes the bosses are just fans of a sport and just want to own their own team. This is very common is cycling, and the sport has a long history of teams being owned by an enthusiastic businessman.

In recent years we've Oleg Tinkoff (Tinkoff Cycling), Marc Coucke (owner of Omega Pharm, which has the Silence brand), Andy Rihs (Phonak, BMC).

Considering that there's been a Skil cycling team for 30 odd years in Europe, I guess their boss is a fan too.
posted by afx237vi at 10:37 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Radio Shacks always look like they are 3 days from closing - wires everywhere, iPod speaker systems unplugged, misshelved, some hip hop station blasting from a Realist receiver with a broken tuner knob, 4 gangley sales dudes orbiting the only girl to come in the shop that day.

I usually just walk out when I see there's not a 3 year old Altec Lansing iPod dock "30% off!!" that day.
posted by plexi at 10:42 AM on September 4, 2009


and Michael Ball of Rock Racing. Classic case of a businessman with too much money and an equivalent amount of enthusiasm for Cycling.
posted by Severian at 10:42 AM on September 4, 2009


incessant: And I hope he stays hostage -- he deserves not one iota of success and is a petulant, immature brat of a rider. I still smile at the memory of Contador on the Col de la Colombiere desperately looking over his shoulder, wondering if Kloden would be able to make contact again and help him after Contador had dropped him himself. What a maroon.

You and I must have been watching completely different races in July.

Didn't look to me as if Contador needed any help whatsoever after he dropped Kloden on the Colombiere. His only real threat during the whole race was Andy Schleck, and he never looked anywhere close to troubling Contador.

So Contador dropped Kloden, so what? Since when is it the yellow jersey's job to shepherd his team-mates onto the podium? How many team-mates did Armstrong help between 1999 and 2005?

That fact that Astana won't let Contador break his contract is actually a compliment. They are fully aware of which rider will be the dominant rider over the next 5 years. 26 years and 4 grand tours on his palmares... that's pretty much unprecedented apart from Merckx.
posted by afx237vi at 10:50 AM on September 4, 2009


I'm also baffled by their confusing, poorly-focused "Stop cancer" message. I mean, what exactly does that even mean? Stop? As in - "Hey, you, halt!" or maybe "Stop doing that, Cancer!" And which cancer? Breast cancer? Lung cancer? Brain cancer? That's ridiculous.

Really? So we needed Lance Armstrong to persuade us that cancer was a bad thing, and should be stopped? Or was it that we knew it was bad, and it never occurred to anyone to stop it? THANK GOD LANCE CONNECTED THE DOTS FOR US! Now go, all of you, and stop cancer. Why are you just sitting there? STOP IT.
posted by msalt at 10:52 AM on September 4, 2009


The Shack will rebuild Lance Armstrong. Because it has the technology.

Oh great, now we'll have a cheap, plastic, fire-engine red Lance Armstrong who's remote control will need new batteries every week and only allow us to send him pitching forward and slightly to the left if he's within 15 feet of us.
posted by Avelwood at 11:07 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


RE: How does Radio Shack still stay in business? I actually find them really useful for stupid cables and things. I needed a cable for my Kindle which I left at the office and they had it, the price wasn't too atrocious though I'm sure I could have got the same thing off Amazon.com for $4, but that's not the point. I needed right then and there this Saturday.

They also stock things like DVD-Rs and such. Because each retail store is small they're often the only electronics stores in an urban area. I have several friends who stop by to pick up things like that instead of making the trek to the suburbs.

They stock most basic electronic supplies anyone needs and I'm sure they're very vertical in their market. I have no doubt they have profits of 200-300% over manufacturing costs. I'm sure they figured out that is more profitable to be a convenience store for electronics and that with 100-200 different products you hit 80% of consumer needs.
posted by geoff. at 11:39 AM on September 4, 2009


So we needed Lance Armstrong to persuade us that cancer was a bad thing, and should be stopped?

Wait a second - which is it? LiveStrong's message is unclear, or we don't need to be told the message in the first place because it's obvious?

And afx237vi, you're right, Contador is a very talented rider with a lot of raw skill. He's also a crap tactician who takes his skill and POUNDPOUNDPOUNDS everyone else. That'll get him quite far, but it won't win my respect. I'd count putting 1-2-3 on the Tour's podium a goal worth achieving, actually. And Contador certainly did seem to want Kloden to come back to him on Colombiere - why else did he keep looking back?

Just to be clear, I'm not a huge fan of Armstrong's either, but LiveStrong deserves a lot of credit for the work the organization does in raising money for and advocating on behalf of cancer research.
posted by incessant at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2009


Lance is also a Texan. I believe RadioShack is also headquartered in Texas.
posted by Wild_Eep at 11:55 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why is Radio Shack . . .
still in business?


i heard a rumor once that the stores operate at a loss, but that the company is fine with it as they're pretty much just there so their engineers have a place to pick up components when they're on the road. remember, Tandy makes chips. chips that are in just about everything. the losses of a 4500-location retail chain may just be a minor inconvenience for the company. plus, who knows, they might be making money...lotta poor people need some cheap tv.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:32 PM on September 4, 2009


Wait a second - which is it? LiveStrong's message is unclear, or we don't need to be told the message in the first place because it's obvious?

Both. I only knew the words "LIVESTRONG," which meant nothing to me, until I read your sarcasm. Once you explained it, yes, it was ridiculously obvious. Cancer has had tons of publicity and research funding my entire life, and I'm in my 40s. It's a horrible disease -- plenty of it in my family -- but I don't see the ratio of helping fight cancer vs. building his personal brand as being very high.
posted by msalt at 12:53 PM on September 4, 2009


Yeah, I can't help but be excited when I think about next year's tour, even though it's 10 months away. Andy Schleck hopefully ascendant with his brother, Alberto Contador stronger than anyone else out there, and Lance with (one assumes) a hand picked virgin team? This year's tour was exciting, but next year's? mmm, can't wait.
posted by Kyol at 12:59 PM on September 4, 2009


I think it's a pretty decent move for The Shack.

Nobody calls it "The Shack".
posted by dunkadunc at 1:12 PM on September 4, 2009


incessant: And afx237vi, you're right, Contador is a very talented rider with a lot of raw skill. He's also a crap tactician who takes his skill and POUNDPOUNDPOUNDS everyone else. That'll get him quite far, but it won't win my respect. I'd count putting 1-2-3 on the Tour's podium a goal worth achieving, actually. And Contador certainly did seem to want Kloden to come back to him on Colombiere - why else did he keep looking back?

How can you be a bad tactician and still win all the races that Contador has won? The only evidence that I've ever seen of Contador being tactically naive was when he had a hunger flat in Paris-Nice this year -- and I don't think there's ever been a single cyclist in the world who hasn't had that happen to them once (and it usually only ever happens once).

From memory, Contador rode a tactically perfect race in the Giro d'Italia last year, not winning a single stage, but still winning the overall. He had guys like Ricco and Simoni firing off attack after attack, yet Contador just rode conservatively, taking time where he needed to and sitting in the group during other times.

Back to the Tour, the reason Contador looked back on the Colombiere was that moments earlier he had asked Kloden how he was feeling and whether he could follow an attack. Kloden said yes.

Don't forget that Kloden had his own hunger flat day. Not only was he dropped by Contador, he was also caught and passed by Armstrong and Wiggins.
posted by afx237vi at 1:21 PM on September 4, 2009


Nobody calls it "The Shack".

I did it just to annoy you.
posted by Mister_A at 1:39 PM on September 4, 2009


I looked up The Shack on The Fish back when I lived in The Bean and oddly enough, I didn't find any of the three. Because they don't exist.

Radio Shack, Babelfish, Boston! Vladimir, Ilyich, Ulyanov!

The Netherlands, The Vatican, The Pale exist. And so does El Salvador. But the other the's, they don't.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:05 PM on September 4, 2009


remember, Tandy makes chips. chips that are in just about everything.

I think you have them^ confused with Texas Instruments. They don't even make computers anymore. Anyway, here's their revenue profile. 1/3 of their business nowadays is cell phones.
posted by dhartung at 2:09 PM on September 4, 2009


While you're reading this post, have you thought about upgrading your mobile phone?
posted by tommasz at 2:18 PM on September 4, 2009


The Shack,
Baby The Shack!

I rest my case.

Case=ass in this case.
posted by Mister_A at 2:33 PM on September 4, 2009


Wasn't his team once sponsored by the US Postal Service? The idea that "bike races are in Europe so only European sponsors make sense" doesn't seem to be a truth.

The first linked article notes that the USPS sponsered the team under the guise of promoting their international shipping abilities. It seems much less obvious what reason The *cough* Shack might have.
posted by youarenothere at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2009


sorry...i thought TI owned Tandy/Radio Shack...guess not.

yeah, I have no idea how they stay in business.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:11 PM on September 4, 2009


It's a Shack-attack on the Pyrenees!
posted by vectr at 3:26 PM on September 4, 2009


I would like to see the diagram of USPS/Discovery/Astana team riders and dopers. My guess is that it would look like this O. Maybe Chris Horner and Dave Zabriskie on the outside (because I love those guys so much I would stop watching the sport if they tested +).
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:36 PM on September 4, 2009


It's depressing to think that people are so cynical as to think of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's work as being essentially nothing but advertising for Mr. Armstrong. You can download detailed financial reports at their website, but here's a brief quote:

Since our inception in 1997, the Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised more than $250 million to support our mission to inspire and empower people affected by cancer. We have provided financial resources to more than 550 organizations that conduct cancer survivorship research or offer services to people affected by cancer, and 80 cents of every dollar donated to the LAF has supported our cancer survivorship programs and initiatives to make cancer a national priority.

Some of that money is from me and from people I've encouraged to donate. My grandmother died of cancer, as did my father. My mother currently has it. Chances are that, if nothing else gets me first, I'll probably die from it. I wear one of those yellow wristbands but it's got nothing to do with Lance Armstrong the pro-cyclist. It has everything to do with reminding myself of people I've lost and that I've got limited time to do what I can to kick cancer's ass. My skills aren't in biology so I figure that the best I can do is fund-raise and help push for appropriate legislation. You're welcome to think that I'm wasting my time and energy, but I don't particularly care.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:04 PM on September 4, 2009


I think Radio Shack's re-branding as "The Shack" is one of the lamest advertising attempts everywhere.

*cough* Syfy *cough*
posted by graventy at 6:05 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


LastofHisKind: Everyone in the last two generations of my family has had cancer. Some have survived, some have not. I am just as likely to get cancer myself as you are, if not more.

I'm sure you felt your reply as a righteous burn on me, and maybe it was. But from where I sit, that's exactly the kind of emotional blackmail I object to. Everyone is against cancer. It has been massively funded for decades. Nixon led a multibillion war on cancer in the 1970s that never stopped. It's not lack of trying or funding or awareness that stops a cure.

I am inspired by everyone who fights cancer, survivors or not, including all of my family, and all of yours. But unlike Lance, they don't need coordinated marketing campaigns with Nike to trumpet their struggles and triumphs.
posted by msalt at 6:48 PM on September 4, 2009


msalt: But unlike Lance, they don't need coordinated marketing campaigns with Nike to trumpet their struggles and triumphs.

Well, I suppose not, but what's wrong with his way of doing things? Lance is inspiring not only because he survived cancer, but because he survived it and went on to kick ass. He didn't 'beat cancer' to go on and live a couple of years, sickly and weak, he 'recovered' to a level of health that exceeds nearly everyone else on Earth. That, to me, is much more inspiring than many cancer survival stories, where the survival always sounds temporary and marginal. Lance proves that not only can you not die from cancer, but you can go on to actually live afterwards.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2009


Good point. If his triumph wasn't so relentlessly marketed, I would resist it less. Obviously there's a value in being a role model, but this seems like the opposite of organic, natural leadership (of the kind that, say, James Brady took on with gun control.)

I think the marketing undercuts the message, because Nike pushed him as the "greatest cyclist ever" before he fought cancer, so there's an implication that he is a great mighty and unique hero, and maybe you have to be as physically strong and mentally disciplined as him to survive.

But you don't. A good friend of mine survived the same cancer at about the same age as Lance. It was grueling, especially the chemo, but he's a graphic designer, not an athlete. Neither he nor any of the many older cancer survivors in my family, including both of my parents, had fragile, marginal survivals. They're vigorous. It either got 'em or it didn't.

I guess ultimately what bothers me is that it feels like Armstrong and Nike are making cancer all about HIM and his triumph (and his bracelets and other products.) He doesn't seem to be serving a cause, as much as he's making this a new part of his legend. I mean, do either Nike or Armstrong take one ounce of risk with this campaign? No, Nike's marketing department loves it. Everyone's against cancer. It's like yellow ribbon campaigns for hostages. Only as asshole like me would resist this at all.

But clearly Lance is inspiring people too, and as much as he genuinely gives folks hope and strength, good for him.
posted by msalt at 9:38 PM on September 4, 2009


Shorter: What's wrong with it? It's self-serving, and demands support from everyone (emotional blackmail.)
posted by msalt at 9:40 PM on September 4, 2009


Even Shorter: you're ill-informed about the topic.
posted by incessant at 12:52 AM on September 5, 2009


Electronics Geek x Cyclist = Ralf Hutter.
posted by ovvl at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2009


Even Shorter: you're ill-informed about the topic.

No facts, no logic, no refutation, insult. Clearly you've got the moral high ground for critiquing other people's comments.
posted by msalt at 10:31 AM on September 5, 2009


> Maybe Chris Horner and Dave Zabriskie on the outside (because I love those guys so much I would stop watching the sport if they tested +).

Yay some Dave Zabriskie love!

In his blog he used to post "one minute" interviews of various riders in the peloton. for example, with Charlie Wegelius of the Liquigas Team:

DZ: Charlie have you ever actually had Liquigas?
CW: You mean like when the s*#t comes out of your ass in a Liquid?
DZ: Sure.
CW: I had to quit the Giro in 2003 because of it.
DZ: Thanks for the interview.

-Dave Z.

posted by needled at 7:03 PM on September 5, 2009


I just figured msalt's response was so ill-informed that it didn't even require refutation, but since he asked...

He doesn't seem to be serving a cause, as much as he's making this a new part of his legend.

The foundation has raised millions ($250 million according to LastOfHisKind's link) for cancer research and cancer-survivor outreach work. Armstrong has advocated politically, lobbying on behalf of cancer research and cancer-related issues ceaselessly for years. That cancer-patient outreach stuff is actually really important and something that shouldn't be forgotten about. Livestrong has created a worldwide community of cancer patients and survivors, and it makes people fell less alone, less isolated, more connected. Their cancer makes them part of a community. That might not feel very important to you, but to many dealing with the disease, it's key.

It's dismaying to hear your tireless bleating about what a horrible fucktard he is because people make commercials about him and he's become a commodity and someone uses his image in order to sell products, or an idea, whether or not the product or idea is worthwhile. It's dismaying to hear you call someone self-serving -- aren't we all self-serving in one way or another? -- when that person is raising millions upon millions of dollars and advocating on behalf of cancer patients and survivors and using his celebrity to open doors and talk to politicians and try to keep up government funding of cancer research. If you think that Livestrong and Nike makes cancer all about Armstrong and his triumph, then you simply aren't listening to the message. You've tuned out already. That's exactly the opposite the message Livestrong sends. The entire Armstrong/Nike campaign this summer was called "It's about you."

In a 2006 article in Forbes, Armstrong talked about endorsement deals. "All of the people and companies I deal with want to be involved and want to help my particular causes. Given that, I wouldn't do an endorsement deal now if it didn't benefit society or [Livestrong]."

Sure, Nike wants to sell shoes, but the phenomenon of the yellow bracelet has turned what was a marketing opportunity and a commercial campaign a few years ago into a full-fledged marketing blitz aimed at awareness, funding, and lobbying. Armstrong has accomplished something unique -- he's manipulated a giant corporation into making his personal brand identity based around a charity. There are no Lance Armstrong commercials made by Nike -- they're ALL Livestrong commercials. Is it good business for Nike? Sure. They wouldn't do it otherwise. But just because it's good business doesn't mean it's also worthwhile.

No, you're right, msalt -- Armstrong shouldn't use his celebrity or his endorsements or throw his weight around to do anything worthwhile. Instead, he should just try to get us to buy more sugar water and fancy cars.

If you don't like being marketed to, then you're probably in the wrong century.
posted by incessant at 12:54 AM on September 6, 2009


Keep yelling and insulting - it actually does prove that you're right!

I'm not interested in a big pissing match, so I'll make a final point. This is not a new disease. There was a community of patients and survivors long before Lance was born, and there's this group called the American Cancer Society that has done great work since 1913, and still provides a lot more funding than Livestrong. Clearly there 's some reason he started his own personally branded group instead of working with existing efforts. I guess we'll just have to disagree on what that reason is.
posted by msalt at 2:50 AM on September 6, 2009


I remember when more than half the square footage of storespace was dedicated to actual electronic components that you then built into equipment. But these days the only thing people are interested in are integrated circuits, which is simply harder to do and requires more specialization and education. Thirty years ago the last home-brewed, tinkerer-made, single-human-designed device was built and the world of electronics hasn't been the same since.

And as the interests have moved and specialized, RadioShack has responded by selling assembled components instead of the bits and pieces. The resistors and capacitors and diodes and 300-in-one Electronics Experiments section got shrunk to the size of a single isle (at best), while the front of the store was dedicated to the products. For audio, their Realistic crap, for computers, Tandy crap, and cell phones and cell phone plans as far as the eye can see.

I'm afraid that move from producer to consumer mimics our culture's interest in the electronics field in general, and that makes this old hacker very, very sad. Because I'm not even old. I can't imagine my kids not knowing how to build their own computer, yet I have to acknowledge the very real possibility that they even if they did give a damn enough to want to know how the shit they play with comes together—which is pretty unlikely—they still wouldn't be able to because there's no place to get the parts.

I recognize, naturally, that there are probably millions of places to get "the parts" (hmm… looks like about 58 million, actually), but to me there's just something inherently better about being able to walk into a physical store. In a store a young kind is encouraged to browse. Read the magazines. Get lured in with the idea of being able to build "Your very-own radio station transmitter from these simple electronic parts!" and stir dreams of firing up their own pirate radio station… Or looking at the amazed expression of the kid on the n10th-in-1 Experiments boxes and not want to conquer humanity with a giant Tesla Coil built in their basement.

American Society is at risk of losing their Mad Scientist edge. And I don't mean that glibly. We need these people to push society forward.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:18 PM on September 8, 2009


American Society is at risk of losing their Mad Scientist edge.

Personally I'm delighted that I don't have to wire freakin' capacitors together anymore. Instead I can string together Javascript and HTTP and Hadoop. It's the same kind of tinker impulse, but now I can build a real working Internet music sharing service instead of a microwatt radio transmitter.
posted by Nelson at 5:12 PM on September 8, 2009


I remember when more than half the square footage of storespace was dedicated to actual electronic components that you then built into equipment. But these days the only thing people are interested in are integrated circuits, which is simply harder to do and requires more specialization and education. Thirty years ago the last home-brewed, tinkerer-made, single-human-designed device was built and the world of electronics hasn't been the same since.


This is somewhat true, but building tube amps and repairing tube radios and amplifiers is one of my hobbies and the Shack is still the go to source for an odd part like a resistor etc. They don't have the bulk of the things I need, especially the high end caps and the tube sockets etc. but they do still carry lots of parts.
posted by caddis at 5:19 PM on September 8, 2009


I think it is great to honor cancer patients and recognize the challenges we face. But don’t call me strong when I have no other choice. It discounts the many nights that I sobbed alone into my pillow and felt cowardice in every inch of my body. … One of the best byproducts of my cancer is that it has helped me befriend weakness. I no longer think of weakness as a negative term. In fact, I’m pretty damn proud that I can let myself feel scared and vulnerable. After all, cancer is scary business.
posted by msalt at 3:31 PM on September 10, 2009


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