PARIS — As Lance Armstrong swept into the history books with his sixth consecutive Tour de France victory Sunday, he also drafted a footnote of a different sort — that of a yellow bracelet.
The Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelets have emerged as a must-have accessory this summer in the U.S. and Europe. The yellow rubber wristbands, stamped with cancer survivor Armstrong’s personal motto, “Live Strong,” are the result of a partnership between Nike and the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise money to help young people living with the disease.
By Saturday morning, the 10 Lance Armstrong Foundation vendors had sold 55,000 wristbands along the Tour’s route, for a euro each. “At the beginning, we thought that we could sell 65,000 for the whole Tour, but we think by Sunday, we’ll reach 100,000,” Julie Vifquain, a spokeswoman for “Nike Operation Yellow” told WWD last week. Indeed, by Sunday the foundation upped the ante and had 30 vendors along the course.
“At the beginning, people asked a lot of questions, but now they know what it means and everyone wants one,” Vifquain continued. “It may, too, be all the hype.” More than half the 189 Tour riders wore the wristbands, although some admitted it was out of sheer peer pressure, others spoke of solidarity and support of the cause. “Everyone’s wearing them,” said Koos Moerenhaut, a Lotto Domo rider. “It’s a good cause. When you can support a thing like that…”
Since the launch of the “Wear Yellow Live Strong” campaign on May 17, almost 6 million bracelets have been sold for $1 a piece at retail locations across the U.S. and online, said a spokeswoman from the foundation. Nike donated $1 million to the foundation and pledged to help raise $5 million more. More bracelets are being manufactured to keep up with strong demand, according to the spokeswoman.
The fund-raising initiative has had a major upswing in recent weeks as the bicycle race unfolded, and Armstrong’s dominance prevailed.
Several celebrities, including Ben Stiller, Matt Damon, Serena Williams, Bruce Willis and Sheryl Crow, have been spotted sporting the bracelets. Jay Leno has been handing them out to audience members, and Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie wore them to the Cannes Film Festival. Robin Williams was even at the finish line sporting the yellow bracelet. An Armstrong confidant and rabid cycling fan, Williams celebrated his 53rd birthday following the Tour. “It means supporting someone’s who’s fighting cancer, like this guy [Lance Armstrong],” Williams told WWD. “It’s extraordinary to have this as a symbol of hope, and to support the research, rehabilitation, counseling for the survivors.”
“This one is very, very special,” Armstrong said. “They’re all special, but in ’99 I never thought I’d win another, and then have a second, third, fourth win…”
— with contributions from Julie Zeveloff