Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Cobbled Road of Good Intentions

Sometimes our best laid plans run afoul....what seem like great ideas at one point can actually be epic failures when looked at with the fresh eyes of retrospection.

Examples are found in every cultural genre:


Children's books


And of course, cycling

Indeed, the road to the proverbial firey place below is occasionally paved in cobbles of good intentions.  Speaking of which, a certain American cyclist is in the news a lot lately and appears to be tripping delightfully down a yellow-cobbled road of sorts. Things certainly seem to be going Armstrong's way lately, as his new RadioShack team just secured a four year UCI ProTour license and he has recently taken his partnership with Nike to a new level with a new clothing / marketing campaign to commemorate his return to road racing titled "Hope Rides Again."  The visual end of this endeavor has been impressive including the installation of a massive billboard of LA looking down on the other, lesser known LA (Los Angeles) with an eerie Orwellian gaze.

To further emphasize the visual blitzkrieg, Nike recruited artist Shepard Fairey to paint some impressive murals in celebration of the Second Coming.

If you are unfamiliar with Fairey's work, you can visit his website titled Obey Giant, which refers to his early iconic image of Andre the Giant, and also the overarching theme of his vision "manufacturing quality dissent since 1989" against, one may guess, commercialism, corporate propaganda and the American machine of consumerism.  Interesting then, the pairing of Fairey with a company whose 2008 revenue was 18.6 billion US Dollars and whose reach extends to 160 countries around the world.  But, what better partner to support a Foundation to benefit the fight against cancer - right?  Because this is about fighting cancer, and not promoting personalities and commericial ideologies - right?

Fairey and Armstrong have also used the "Hope Rides Again" campaign to advertise their forthcoming global art exhibition to "raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer" called STAGES.  In case you are bumming around in New York on Halloween, you can check out the grand opening at the Deitch Projects Gallery.  As with all Nike's Livestrong engagements and products, 100% of the proceeds go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation (and 100% of the Nike products are guaranteed to be branded with a certain iconic logo).
Obey Giant indeed.

How important is it that altruism be anonymous, or at the least, not be an advertisment scheme?  Does it matter that each Nike Livestrong item purchased comes with a simultaneous marketing master plan if it also means money is going into the cancer research jar?  Is it important that the new line of Nike apparel designed for the Livestrong campaign, in the spirit of its founder, a professional cyclist, has absolutely nothing to do with cycling?

Does it matter that the same company supporting the Livestrong campaign, Nike, was as recently as 2008 found to be involved with forced labor and squalid living conditions in one of the biggest apparel factories in Malaysia?

At least LA is keeping his home town inspiration in mind during the development of all the new products as can be seen on the heels of some of his new kicks, called the Nike Zoom Tiempo, to be released Saturday the 24th.

This article states that "Nike's design team worked with Lance Armstrong to create a Zoom Tiempo inspired by Lance's hometown, Austin, Texas."  But I wonder whether Texas would have felt more inspirational if instead of the shoes, Lance had chosen to be the pitchman for small-town Texan Spoetzel Brewery, maker of Shiner Bock, his self-proclaimed beer of choice, and host of the Shiner BASH, an early fundrasier for the Armstrong Foundation many years ago.  Instead, he's recently agreed to endorse the slightly larger and more financially lucrative Missouri-brewed Michelob ULTRA.  He stated in a press release:

"I'm always making decisions that complement my active lifestyle, and this includes my beer choice when I want to enjoy a cold one with friends or when taking a break from training."

In related news, Shephard Fairey has found himself in a bit of hot water lately, for allegedly using an image illegally.  And Armstrong's chief rival (in the minds of the media and spectators anyway) Alberto Contador, has been catching a lot of flak for his recent adoption of a certain 'fingerbang' salute, seen here:

I wonder if Fairey and Contador shouldn't consider a collaboration as well?

Pedal on!


  1. Michelob over Shiner? Seriously? LA just lost ALL credibility.

  2. LA never had much to begin with.