To kick things off, Livestrong hired Ogilvy, the famous advertising firm, to create a global cancer-awareness campaign leading up to the summit. Cost: $3.8 million. It spent another $1.2 million to hire a New York City production company to stage the three-day event. Then it paid more than $1 million to fly 600 cancer survivors and advocates to Dublin from all over the world—the U.S., Russia, Bangladesh, and 60 other countries. The former president of Nigeria even showed up.
Often, the main output at gatherings like this is verbiage, and so it was at the summit. Participants declared cancer a “global health crisis.” A report was produced titled “A World Without Cancer.” And delegates called on every country to develop a national cancer plan to deal with the disease. At the end of the summit, 97 percent of participants answering a Livestrong survey said they had “developed a deeper level of understanding about the issues related to cancer.”
“You wonder,” AIP’s Borochoff says. “If they just gave the money to cancer research, would it generate as much great publicity for Lance Armstrong?”
THE FOUNDATION considers this money well spent, but if I were a Livestrong supporter I’d also ask: What’s the product here? If not research, then what do I get for my $100 donation?
“I think the product is hope,” says Mark McKinnon, the renowned GOP political consultant and a Livestrong board member. Armstrong’s team approached McKinnon in 2001, seeking advice on positioning Lance for a postcycling career. McKinnon, a media strategist for President George W. Bush, introduced Armstrong to another client, Bono. The two hit it off, and soon Armstrong seemed to be aiming toward a Bono-like role as a global cancer statesman.
“His goal was to change the way people look at cancer and the way people deal with cancer,” says McKinnon. “In typical Lance fashion, he wanted to have a fundamental impact on the disease: how it’s perceived, how it’s dealt with.”
Done. Thanks largely to Armstrong, we don’t talk about cancer “victims” anymore; they’re cancer survivors. And they don’t “suffer” from the disease; they want to “Kick. Its. Ass”—as ESPN anchor and cancer patient Stuart Scott urged a crowd of high-level Livestrong fundraisers and donors at a dinner before the Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge last August.