AUSTIN, TX: After a competitive pitch by several of the largest PR firms in the country, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) has hired boutique firm SS&K to develop the organization's brand strategy.LAF director of communications and outreach Bianca Bellavia confirmed that the organization had gone through one round of the RFP before being introduced to SS&K by an LAF board member. "They came after our initial invitation, about a week after we invited the initial agencies," she said. "SS&K stood out. They have such a great, creative team, and they seem to really have a sense of what we were doing. They captured [Lance's] voice really well." Among those who originally pitched for the account were Edelman and Porter Novelli. The LAF was founded by five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong to help those who suffer from and have survived cancer, as Armstrong himself did. Through community programs and research grants, the LAF promotes "optimal physical, psychological, social recovery and care of cancer survivors and their loved ones," according to the group's website. Though they have yet to plan a specific initiative, the client and agency began working together earlier this week. "It's more developing the strategy, and a very simple and compelling way to tell their story, and really make that emotional connection," said SS&K partner Rob Shepardson. "We're really discussing how to take advantage of the opportunity they have in front of them, given a number of factors: Lance's stature as a sports figure, but more importantly as a spokesman for over 9 million people in the US who have cancer, who in many ways are not properly represented now." SS&K has worked with a number of other nonprofits, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Fannie Mae Foundation, and the US Fund for Unicef. The LAF account will be handled out of SS&K's New York office, where a core team of three will be supported by four or five others as needed. Bellavia said she expects the LAF to spend between $500,000 and $1 million with SS&K this year.