Let’s capture the value for Idaho in Kristin Armstrong’s gold
Published: August 1,2012
Earlier this summer I wrote about the business reasoning for sending Kristin Armstrong to the Olympic Games. And although she was only weeks removed from a devastating crash and broken collarbone, USA Cycling ultimately did just that and sent Armstrong to London.
She made it emphatically clear on Aug. 1 that the sport’s governing body made the right decision. Armstrong won her second Olympic gold medal in convincing, heartwarming fashion. She even convinced strict Olympic officials to let her carry son Lucas onto the Olympic medal podium.
In my last column I suggested that such moments presented rich potential for a sport desperate to attract more female participants. Armstrong is a successful woman pushing 40 who is trying to balance a demanding career with the stresses of motherhood. In other words, she is the perfect spokeswoman for a sport and an industry trying to reach that critical demographic.
But what about others who are involved with this week’s victory? What about the state she calls home? What about Armstrong herself?
Disclaimer: I know Kristin and her husband Joe and consider them friends. However, I have not spoken with them about this topic.
Let’s examine the strategic advantages.
First, Armstrong is well-spoken, personable, attractive and someone who understands the power of a good narrative. Those qualities combined with her track record of success make her an ideal person to sell almost any brand.
Second, she is fiercely loyal to Boise and to Idaho in a way that could, arguably, be considered a key to her success. She represents our culture of independence, dedication and deep appreciation for this place, which is so important to the culture of Idaho’s communities.
Third, she is beloved. Her commitment to institutions like the Boise Family YMCA and to events like the kids’ race at the Boise Twilight Criterium, along with a polished, unblemished personal brand have made her a celebrity in the best sense of the word.
After Armstrong’s win, Boise Mayor David Bieter said to a local television station that he had already given Armstrong the key to the city and would have to think hard about how to top it.
Here’s my suggestion: Don’t try to top it. Instead of looking at Armstrong as a champion athlete to be celebrated, look at her as another Simplot, another Albertsons, another Scentsy. She is an Idaho institution. And like the best Idaho institutions, she is completely committed to our state and to its communities.
Our state and the Treasure Valley in particular are woven into Armstrong and her success. We are a part of her story and she a part of ours. It is the kind of interdependence that, in the business world, allows two brands to work together for even better success. Think Microsoft and PCs, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, or Facebook and Instagram.
Idaho and Kristin Armstrong need to partner in the same way. Our state should work with her to spread the message that this quality of life so critical to her success can be important to others.
Whether it’s out-of-state businesses thinking about relocating, prospective students for our universities or a foreign country looking to increase trade with our state, they should hear from Kristin Armstrong.
But we need to move fast. Armstrong is an amazing brand. She won’t be on the market long.
John Foster is co-founder of Kestrel West, a Boise-based public affairs firm specializing in lobbying, crisis communications and strategic campaigns. He has worked as a political operative, newspaper editor, investigative journalist and elite athlete. You can read his blog at ReadingTheRace.com or email him at email@example.com.