Is this an Ultra Ultimatum?
As legions of hardcore Armstrong fans know, June is the time when the Texan goes to his final level of Tour de France preparation: Elevated Monk Status. A time when he withdraws from the temptations of the world in oder to arrive at the optimal physical condition. He weighs his food, abstains from alcohol and cuts all social engagements.
However, Armstrong’s “lifestyle beer of choice” Michelob Ultra has apparently asked Armstrong to postpone his Monk Status and keep drinking beer. Given the size of the three year endorsement deal, saying no to Michelob won’t be easy.
“Hey, we’re just asking Lance to keep having a few beers. Sales are good and we want to keep momentum,” said Anheuser-Busch InBev spokesman Mitch Lager. “Is an Ultra or two a day really gonna wreck his chances of beating that Spanish guy? Don’t think so.”
Radio Shack’s master strategist Johan Bruyneel was coy about any adjustments in Armstrong’s beer consumption. “We have had talks with the Michelob people. In the past we have never set a firm date for Elevated Monk Status. It may be that we can slide it a week later,” said Bruyneel.
One possible scenario being discussed is having Armstrong designate the week after his participation in the Tour de Suisse as an Ultra Party week. The Ultra advertising team has a “Monkey With The Monk” promotional campaign ready to launch.
“We’re not against the Monk Status. Nobody wants Lance to win more than Michelob Ultra. That’s a huge bonus for us, beer sales-wise. We’re just asking Lance to tone it down. Our demographic really doesn’t get the whole monk thing,” said Ultra distributor Willy Belcher.
A source in the marketing department has also suggested a promotional change to Ultra Monk Status brought to you by Michelob. “It’s a subtle adjustment. It says yes, you can weigh the food but still drink a great low carb beer like Michelob Ultra,” said advertising intern Julie Keggers.
When the original endorsement deal was announced some critics questioned the appropriateness of an athlete endorsing alcohol. At that time, Armstrong stated, “People think I’m like a vegan who wouldn’t touch a beer. I drink beer all the time. I probably have at least a sip of alcohol every day.”
It remains to be seen whether one sip will be enough to satisfy the malt beverage powerhouse. “Look, we love the Monk Status attitude. Lance is a winner. We’re just saying, does he stop wearing Nikes in June, does he stop wearing his Oakleys? There’s no reasons a monk can’t have a case or two of Michelob Ultra for himself and friends, tour or no tour,” said Michelob’s Dirk Sudsmeyer.
One things is for certain: the Armstrong camp is taking the Michelob request seriously, even bringing in famed cycling coach Michele Ferrari. “He’s running some numbers, threshold stuff, physiological data — it may be that two beers will not compromise Lance’s training progression,” said Radio Shack’s Allen Lim.
Will the 38 year old Lance Armstrong be in peak physical condition for his July battles with Alberto Contador? That’s the Ultra question, isn’t it?