Over the course of Lance Armstrong's career, the US Postal Service paid him over $40 million in sponsorship money (at least according to the radio report I heard this morning).
I don't necessarily begrudge advertising -- the USPS was nominally acting as a business enterprise, and businesses advertise to promote their services.
But I do find this expenditure odd in the extreme for a couple of reasons.
- First, sponsorship money of this sort generally can only build name recognition. Paying to name a ballpark "Chase Field" builds name recognition for Chase, but by necessity does not communicate anything else about its services or value proposition. The same is true for putting one's name on Lance Armstrong's jersey. Does the US Post Officer really need name recognition? Are there people wandering around unaware of the US mail? I could understand advertising such as "this is why our express mail is better than Fedex" or "you should send a real paper thank you note and not just an email to really thank someone." But name recognition for the USPS? "Oh, so that is what that funny box in front of my house is...."
- Second, to the extent one did indeed feel the need to build name recognition, why in the hell would one do it in a sport primarily competed and followed in Europe? This seems an odd strategy for a service that is essentially limited by statute to US operations.
The only thing I can guess is that someone in the USPS decided, "Hey, everyone hates us. Let's sponsor someone (preferably in a tangential sport that we could actually afford) who is beloved so some of those positive feelings might transfer to us." That worked out well, huh?