There are a few types of people: “those that know”, “those that know what they don’t know”, and “those that don’t know what they don’t know”. I honestly feel like the last one applies to cycling teams and sponsorships. We have these athletes scratching their heads about why sponsors are leaving, wait, sprinting away. Are the athletes themselves to blame?
This piece is not about doping, I’m going to stop you right now. Doping is a big contributor for why some sponsors pull out, but we’re focusing on the other aspects in this piece. Companies sponsor cycling teams for a multitude of reasons: increasing brand awareness/exposure, re-releasing themselves (RadioShack — The Shack), having products tested by the pros for feedback and marketing, and some are aficionados of the sport willing to take a chance. However, regardless of the goal, a return on investment (ROI) is expected. What are we going to get for our money? There are loads of goals businesses are trying to achieve. Thus, it is up to the team to have a firm understanding of them and do their best to make them happen. Curious to know who does this well? NASCAR and triathletes.
NASCAR and Triathlon are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to monetary support (amongst other things). However, regardless of the financial backing, they’re giving verbal press to their sponsors. Dare I say cycling is the red-headed step-child or are they simply more refined?? Money is never going to be superfluous in cycling. Yet, we don’t want bicycles looking like NASCAR cars either.
It’s comically tragic that stellar cycling teams can be completely run on a fraction of a pro NFL or MLB player’s salary. Undoubtedly, this is unfortunate, but we have to work with what we have.
Should Cyclists be Doing More?
In almost all of the interviews I hear and read, cyclists rarely mention their sponsors. Next time you hear a NASCAR or triathlete victory interview/speech listen to it — loads of sponsor shout-outs. NASCAR and triathletes understand this point: sponsors want exposure. Yes, it’s almost too much at times. It can (and needs to) be done tactfully. Sounding unenthused or forced does the opposite for all parties involved. The best product shout-out I’ve seen to date was when Mark Cavendish won a stage, held his hand to his ear like a phone, and pointed to HTC. That was golden.
Is there an appropriate shout-out for Liquigas…
When I was racing on an amateur team a couple years ago, I tried to use all of our sponsor’s services. I supported the team bike shop even though there was a closer shop. I went to the sponsoring physical therapist’s office for PT. Yes, I received discounts on some of the services, but not all. Here’s the most important piece of that sponsorship: I recommended these places to my peers when the opportunities presented themselves and it wasn’t fake either. I was using their services.
Guess what? Businesses aren’t giving teams money because it is cool. They are giving teams money because they are trying to grow. It’s up to the team to do their part and help, not be mooches.
FYI, I am not saying everyone on Leopard-Trek has to go out an buy Mercedes.
Yes, the cost per impression is fantastic. Visuals are very powerful. Team blogs need the shout-outs to their sponsors too. Simply having a Sponsors Page with a link to them is no longer sufficient. Social media makes this easier than ever! Stories about using their sponsor’s products, pictures, etc. More and more athletes are getting the hint, but need to get to it — double-time.
Cyclists shouldn’t be used car salesmen, but should they be “out there” more?
YOU are not off the hook either. Concerned about sponsors leaving the sport? We all need to do our part. Are you purchasing these companies’ products? Are you trying to raise awareness for them? Of course, we have to be realistic — I know people in the U.S. cannot purchase Liquigas products, not everyone can afford Mercedes, not everyone wants to ride the same bike as Contador or Farrar, nor be a complete fan-boy, but see my point.
My favorite sponsorship to date for a team was Chipotle Mexican Grill. I gladly supported that sponsor. Your favorite?
Nothing like a half serious half humorous post,