Publicity stunt or legitimate brand protection?

By James Hickman

13 November 2012

Skins, the high performance sports clothing brand are suing the International Cycling Union (UCI) for £1.2million in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. As a leading sponsor of the UCI, Skins are citing the indirect damage to the brands reputation as their grounds for legal action, the damage to the reputation of professional cycling will seemingly have a knock-on negative effect on the integrity of the sports principal sponsors. However, whether this lawsuit was thought of by the Legal department or by some clever individual in the Communications department remains to be seen…

A cynic could comfortably argue that due to the extensive amount of coverage that a relatively common B2B lawsuit has gathered over the last few weeks, this legal action is more about getting exposure for the Skins brand than it is about protecting their brand image. Surely any negative prejudice that Skins could face in light of the Lance Armstrong doping controversy doesn’t amount to £1.2million worth of brand reputational damage? After all, a vast majority of Skins products aren’t particularly cycling-orientated and it takes up a fairly small portion of their range of high-performance sporting clothing.

Hypothetically speaking, if this lawsuit is successful and Skins do find themselves a cool million and some change better off, and this is in fact a PR-led campaign, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this money go towards something that’ll bring even more exposure and repair any possible damage to the brand. We’ve had suggestions in the office that perhaps they could invest some of the legal winnings into grass-roots cycling or something equally ‘fluffy’, perhaps Skins can help clean up professional cycling and help the sport move past the ‘dark days of doping’.