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Vaughters’ visionary cycling sponsorship model

Garmin Director navigates route to pro cycling’s sustainability and growth

Jonathan Vaughters’ article provides a clear and sustainable business model for professional cycling. Although The Geox Paradox, published almost one year ago, foreshadows Geox’s exit from professional cycling, Vaughters’ solution provides an achievable roadmap for professional road cycling to navigate difficult times.  The foundation of the Garmin-Cervelo Director’s business model is: Sustainability, Accountability, Flexibility and Partnership.

Sustainability: Recent sponsor defections clearly illustrate the need for long term contracts between events, teams and, ultimately, sponsors. Vaughters proposes the UCI contractually guarantee teams participation in major events for 10 years. The evaluation criteria would be based on history (not “what have you done for me lately?”), performance and ethics. Today, teams and sponsors are faced with a few options to combat the year-to-year cycle (each with their own consequence): win, win at all costs or stack rosters with riders carrying the most points. One could argue longer term contracts and guaranteed entry would help companies, wealthy benefactors and sponsors avoid the “immediate results today” mentality, and could shift focus to cycling sponsorship’s positive impact on business objectives.

Accountability: If all parties are held to specific ethics and standards, contractually, there could be a decrease in sponsor defections. Drugs, cheating and unethical behavior are obvious. Two areas worthy of exploration are sponsor expectations and measurable results. Why? If a sponsor is guaranteed their team will compete in the Tour De France and they don’t the sponsorship contract is voided. Another option worthy of consideration is to have teams and sponsors contractually agree upon measurable results (i.e. – Sponsor investment will deliver an ROI of increased web traffic of 15%, increased sales of 25%, increased brand recognition of 10%).  Once again, if results aren’t achieved the sponsorship contract is voided. One would believe greater care would be taken before contracts are signed. (Ed. – I am suggesting the example for measurable results. Successful partnerships should always include well defined objectives and results that can be measured.)

Flexibility: The ability to adjust strategy and tactics is as important in racing as it is in business and sponsorship. Options often create opportunity and can help establish a roadmap for success. In Vaughters’ model, sponsors could opt to fund teams guaranteed entry into Tier 1 events, or choose to fund teams that will develop slowly and eventually compete at the highest level. One only has to look at the genesis of teams like Garmin-Cervelo, Team SpiderTech and GreenEdge to understand the merits of building a team (and a brand) slowly.

Partnership: Professional road racing is the pinnacle of teamwork and partnership. Teams, sponsors and events could adopt an environment that fosters collaboration and cooperation to achieve a common goal.  The end result would be success for the team and the sponsor which would facilitate growth for our sport. Vaughters suggests two areas where partnership can help professional cycling. The first is sponsor equity investments (similar to employee stock options). Teams could sell equity when sponsorship dollars are not readily available to cover operating expenses. The second area partnership impacts is perceived value. Limiting the number of teams guaranteed entry into top level events, over 10 years, creates exclusivity and limits the number of sponsorship opportunities. Exclusivity always creates greater value which is a basic rule of economics (supply and demand; when something is in short supply it becomes a more valuable commodity).

Had pro cycling instituted a model similar to Vaughters’ maybe we wouldn’t be witnessing title sponsors exiting the sport. And, potentially prospective sponsors like BigMat would jump at the chance to promote their brand through cycling sponsorship (as they once did as BigMat -Peugeot-IBM).

Think about it.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down.”

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Here we Geox again

Published on 20. Oct, 2011 by Al in Featured, Pro Cycling Sponsorship

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Here we Geox again

After a year of experience in professional cycling, the company considers its presence in this sport not strategic anymore – Geox Press Release

Hmmmm…..sponsoring professional cycling is not strategic anymore? Wondering what they expected?

Could the root of the problem be misplaced expectations. When team owners don’t get what they expect, well, they Geox away! (Sounds like cycling sponsorship did not help the company sell more shoes.)

When you have owners like Flavio Becca (Leopard-Trek now RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) and Mario Moretti Polegato (Geox) who are enamored with the sport, fork over a Brinks truck worth of cash, they expect their riders to compete and win the Tour De France and when they don’t, there will be trouble. The situation gets compounded when a sponsor does not get the “strategic” value they expect for their brand (i.e. – more sales). When teams don’t understand or set a sponsor’s expectations properly there will be consequences!

John Wilcockson’s article, A Flawed System, documented how Geox founder and chariman, Mario Moretti Polegato, “threatened to pull his funding when the Tour invite he’d been promised evaporated.” Geox expected their brand to be visible in the world’s biggest bike race. And, as a result probably expected to reap the rewards increased visibility would drive such as more web traffic, retail store traffic, sales and revenue. (Apparently Mr. Polegato’s disappointment of not competing in the Tour De France could not be appeased even with Juan Jose Cobo’s win at this year’s Vuelta.)

The bottom line: Teams have to take ownership in setting expectations of rich benefactors and company magnets before they accept those big fat sponsorship checks. Otherwise you end up with a press release that reads:

“After a year of experience in professional cycling, the company considers its presence in this sport not strategic anymore”

The same scenario can play out all levels of cycling. Beware of what your sponsor expects from their investment in your club or team. Otherwise, they might just Geox away!

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”

P.S. – I still contend a team leaving the sport has little to do with revenue sharing. But, I’ll continue that argument another day.

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RECYCLING SPONSORSHIP

Published on 17. Oct, 2011 by Al in Cycling Sponsorship Value, Featured

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RECYCLING SPONSORSHIP

RECYCLING traditional cycling sponsorship strategies could lead to more money and sponsors for all!

The irony of Tony Martin, the world’s best individual time trialist, winning the inaugural Tour of Beijing, for arguably the world’s most successful team, creates an interesting juxtaposition.  Could the contrast be any clearer?  A team that won almost five hundred races over the last three years loses its title sponsor yet wins an international race established specifically to expand professional road racing in the second largest economy in the world! You can’t get any more of a contrast than that!

GreenEdge Cycling and Champion System are prime examples of recycling “tried and true” sponsorship approaches  to ensure sponsorship success and team sustainability. The time and effort invested in branding, messaging and differentiation can pay dividends for cycling teams at all levels.

Develop the brand first: GreenEdge cycling, backed by wealthy Australian businessman, Gerry Ryan, has not signed a title sponsor. However, lack of sponsorship does not deter Ryan from his goal of creating an international  Tier 1 team. GreenEdge intends to compete, win and establish a strong marketing platform for sponsors.  Shayne Bannan, the team’s General Manager, explains GreenEdge’s vision and approach: “We really want to look at our GreenEdge branding and develop the brand, develop the team which puts us in a lot better situation to find a partner. We don’t want to be desperate and go and knock on everyone’s doors. Gerry, in his generosity, is really keen to develop the brand, develop the team which I think will put us in a good situation this time next year.”

Ryan’s sponsorship strategy should help the team accurately qualify and deliver on sponsor expectations to ensure longer-term sponsor relationships and team sustainability which is one of the problems facing our sport.

Create growth and demand in new markets: Champion System believes cycling sponsorship will help increase awareness, visibility and growth for our sport and their brand.  The company recently announced sponsorship of Asia’s first UCI Professional Continental team. Charlie Issendorf, Vice President Sales & Marketing at Champion System put their sponsorship into perspective: “….our goal is to continue our efforts to support professional cycling and to do our part to help its development in Asia.”  This goes hand in hand with the objective of the UCI’s Global Cycling Promotion division to promote and develop cycling in non-traditional markets.

Although Champion is a cycling apparel company, and has a vested interest in the sport, Issendorf’s comments are true for all sponsors: “…..we use sponsorship to help increase brand awareness and having a top level team will certainly increase the endorsement value of what we believe is a great brand.”

The sheer nature of cycling provides an effective platform to increase visibility of a company’s brand, products and services. Cycling’s global growth presents sponsors with an opportunity to reach new customers, sell more products or services and increase market share.

Sponsorship is a two way street: Recycling sponsorship paradigms can help both new and existing sponsors. Companies benefit from cycling sponsorship to promote their brand and reach their target audience. New international races, like the Tour of Beijing, help companies in emerging markets reach consumers in established cycling markets as Europe and North America.

In 2009 the UCI created the Global Cycling Promotion division to help professional cycling gain a foothold in countries outside of Europe. The objective was to develop the sport of cycling and to provide a vehicle for sponsors to connect with consumers in non-traditional cycling markets. However, UCI President, Pat McQuaid’s comments illustrate the motives behind  Chinese companies (and companies in non-traditional cycling markets) interest in professional cycling and sponsorship – “They want the exposure in Europe that sponsoring a bike team can bring.”

Two lessons you can apply from GreenEdge and Champion System on how to get a cycling sponsorship?

  • Take the time to develop your cycling club’s brand and messages. Be sharp, crisp and concise and ensure your messages clearly describe the value sponsorship will deliver. (Example: How sponsorship can help companies make money, save money or project an intended image)
  • Remember that cycling sponsorship helps companies reach consumers and partners in new demographics and market segments. Position your cycling club as a platform to help companies align their products with cycling’s demographic or the Health and Wellness market segment.

Maybe it’s time we all begin RECYCLING  SPONSORSHIP sponsorship strategies. Could lead to more “green” for all of us!

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”

References

Champion System forms UCI Professional Continental team, Kirsten Frattini, www.cyclingnews.com, September 30, 2011

Major sponsor unlikely for GreenEdge, Jane Aubrey, www.cyclingnews.com, October 11, 2011

Teams hoping for Chinese payoff from Beijing tour, Andrew Hood, www.velonews.com, October 4, 2011

Q & A: Global Cycling Promotion on Beijing and the way forward, Daniel Benson, September 7, 2011

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Cycling sponsorship basics

This is a post written to review the basics of securing cycling sponsorship.

What could your cycling club or team do with more sponsorship and funding?

Probably a lot!

At the high end maybe its new team vehicles, bikes, wheels or parts groups. Potentially it means staying in nicer hotels, eating at healthier restaurants, or having more gas money when attending races or events. Any way you look at it, having more sponsors and funding is a good thing; the more you have, the more you can do!

So, how do you get more sponsorship and funding?

First step: Understand why companies provide sponsorship, and particularly, why companies sponsor cycling. Knowledge of the 3 common motivating factors will help increase your chances of successfully engaging and securing additional cycling sponsorship and funding.

Why companies provide sponsorship & funding?

To make money: Anything that helps a company increase sales, revenue, market share, and profitability will contribute directly to their bottom line and be viewed in a positive light. Cycling provides a highly visible, and effective, marketing and advertising platform assisting companies in reaching their target audience. Your cycling club or team’s participation in events (races, rally’s, group rides), community activities, national and local initiatives (“Bike Sharing”, Commute to Work”, “Share the Road”) contributes to increased visibility, and ultimately, sales for your sponsors. Additionally, your club or team’s use  of the web, social media, blogs, newsletters, and news releases, can also deliver significant dividends in driving incremental increases in awareness, interest, traffic and sales for sponsors.

Lastly, cycling sponsorship creates new revenue opportunities for companies through Business-to-Business (B2B) relationships. The exposure companies receive from your club’s sponsors, as well as from companies sponsoring cycling events, can lead to mutually beneficial business partnerships that can help increase sales and revenue.

To save money: Cutting costs, saving dollars, and maximizing expenditures for advertising, marketing, and public relations directly impacts a company’s expense budgets, operating expenses and profitability. Cycling sponsorship provides an efficient and cost-effective vehicle to help companies augment existing marketing and advertising campaigns, to deliver messages to market, and reach consumers in new market segments and niches.

To project an intended image: All companies have a specific image portrayed to the public, their customers and target market. Consumer and market perception is extremely important and can often impact sales and brand loyalty. One way companies can bolster image is to demonstrate social responsibility & concern through support of emerging societal issues. Cycling addresses issues as health and wellness, environmental and ecological concerns, “green”, alternative transportation, and air quality/pollution. Sponsoring cycling helps companies demonstrate social responsibility, philanthropy and community involvement, which are key components garnering positive PR by “serving the greater good”, resulting in increased brand visibility and recognition.

Now that you understand the reasons companies sponsor cycling here are 6 recommendations your cycling club or team can use to increase success when engaging prospective sponsors.

01) Focus on addressing the sponsor or prospective sponsor’s needs: Think in terms of the business objectives companies are striving to achieve (ex: increase brand visibility, store and web traffic, sales). Aligning your club’s value with their business objectives enables you to create compelling sponsorship offers which help justify a company’s investment in your club.

02) Do the legwork: Take the time to understand a company’s mission, goals, objectives, and core values. Explore their website, blogs and social networking sites to gain insight into their core values, business and philanthropic goals, products and services, community and social initiatives. Performing research provides you with knowledge of a company’s priorities, market and clients, enabling your club to effectively position the value of cycling sponsorship.

03) Customize your content to your audience: Make sure your club’s sponsorship proposal areas of your website and all communications geared towards securing sponsorship and funding are customized to address the specific issues of the prospective sponsor. Sending a generic sponsorship proposal or letter is not the best use of anyone’s time, not to mention, it’s really not very effective. Customizing your messages, website and sponsorship proposal, by focusing on the business value cycling sponsorship delivers, gives you a better chance of securing sponsorship.

04) Get existing sponsors selling for you: There is no better endorsement than to have a happy sponsor talk about what you have provided for their company or organization. Quotes and references can help illustrate the value your club or team can deliver.

05) Leverage Social Media: faceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter can help you identify, research, and subsequently engage companies that might be potential candidates to sponsor your cycling club. Use social media relationships to identify connections that could lead to discussions and introductions with prospective sponsors.

06) Engage companies that are:

  • Headquartered in your city, town or geographic area: A headquarter location typically has decision making authority for sponsorship and funding.
  • Active in the community: Companies supporting various civic activities, sports clubs, or social initiatives may be more receptive to sponsoring your cycling club. Community involvement indicates a company understands the value of aligning their brand with issues that are important to local constituents.
  • Undergoing change such as expansion, merger/acquisition, leadership transition and new product announcements could signal potential sponsorship opportunities. Change might warrant a need for companies to deliver updated marketing or advertising messages to reach their target audience. Cycling sponsorship is an excellent vehicle for helping a company to “get the word out.”

Hope this helps your sponsorship efforts.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”

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Revenue sharing will NOT save pro cycling!

“If cycling wants to grow, the essential first step to a solution is clear: A financial model must evolve wherein event owners share revenues with its teams“. – Alex Fairly, Odd Men Out, Velo, October 2011.

If revenue sharing is the key to growth professional cycling will flat line!

“Odd Men Out” does not present a feasible business model. The cornerstone of Fairly’s argument is that the ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) and major races should share revenue with teams and riders. What would motivate the ASO to share revenues with teams? In fact, what would motivate any event organizer to share revenue with teams? Revenue sharing is not a viable option for professional road cycling. Cycling is not the NFL, English Premier League or Major League Baseball. There are several reasons why these sports can command revenue sharing. Teams are corporate structures and rely on ticket sales and merchandise to create a large portion of their revenue. Lastly, teams in professional football, soccer and baseball rely heavily on large AND small market teams to ensure the overall success of the league.

Rather than focusing on unrealistic business models professional cycling can never successfully implement, I would propose focusing on things we can change to fuel the growth of professional cycling.

There are four realistic strategies for growing professional cycling: increase globalization, deliver on sponsor expectations, continue to clean up the sport and capitalize on capturing a larger piece of the $70 billion dollar sponsorship pie.

Embrace globalization: In 2002 – 2004 “70 – 80% of UCI races were in four countries: France, Italy, Spain and Belgium” quotes Alain Rumpf, head of the UCI’s Global Cycling Promotion division. The cyclingnews.com article “Global Cycling Promotion on Beijing and the way forward” described how lack of globalization was a major weakness which resulted in companies leaving the sport, the most notable being Motorola. Today, professional cycling is growing in continents outside of Europe, such as North America, Africa and Asia, with new races emerging. Rumpf states “….part of the thinking of GCP was to make the sport more global and there is a great opportunity at the moment because we can see countries are hungry for events and sport.” The global growth, reach and marketability of professional cycling can provide companies with a platform to directly reach consumers and clients through cycling sponsorship. Continued focus on growth is a more viable option than pointing to revenue sharing as a solution.

Stand and Deliver: Set sponsors expectations carefully and only promise what you can deliver! “…no sponsor wants to be sold on something that isn’t real…..” John Wilcockson’s VeloNews article “A Flawed System” chronicles how professional cycling’s sponsorship model derailed Pegasus and almost cost Geox their title sponsor. Consider the consequences when a benefactor or company does not reap the rewards of their sponsorship investment because their team did not compete, perform or worst deliver on the promise of increased visibility, sales and market share. A thorough understanding of what the sponsor expects is critical to maintaining a mutually beneficial and sustainable relationship. Judging what you can deliver is equally important. And, as stated in “Winning doesn’t guarantee sponsorship!”, winning alone is not enough to maintain sponsors.

Perception IS reality: Companies will not jeopardize the image of their brand! Continued steps to ensure the sport is perceived in a positive light is vital to professional cycling’s longevity and the ability for teams to attract major sponsors. The blog post “Handling objections regarding cycling sponsorship” provides a good basis for handling discussions with clients regarding the state of the sport.

Take a piece of the pie: Sponsorship is a $ 70 billion dollar industry!: Companies are investing heavily in sponsorship to connect with consumers and clients. Sponsorship provides increased visibility and awareness for their company, brand, products and services. Cycling sponsorship gives companies a unique and highly effective marketing platform to reach their targeted segment. Look at the number of fans attending races, sponsors paying for television advertising during broadcasts and the popularity of the growth of the sports demographic globally.

Let’s stick to things we can impact and change.

P.S. – Have you checked out my new e-book “Cycling Sponsorship 101: How to get cycling sponsorship!”. “Cycling sponsorship 101″ is a comprehensive, step-by-step, guide walking you through the entire cycling sponsorship process in an easy to follow format. Simply stated, “Cycling Sponsorship 101″ will help you get more sponsorship and funding! I am offering my subscribers a 100% money back guarantee.Want to read a FREE chapter from the book? Download your preview copy.

Thanks again for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”

References

“Odd Man Out: In order for pro cycling to move forward, event organizers must share revenues”, Alex Fairly, Velo, p. 23, October, 2011

“Q&A”: Global Cycling Promotion on Beijing and the way forward”, Daniel Benson, cyclingnews.com, September 7, 2011

“A Flawed System: Pegasus and Geox are two examples of how cycling’s sponsorship model can fail teams, riders and sponsors. Team managers Vaughters and Bruyneel have some answers — or do they”, John Wilcockson, VeloNews, p. 19, April, 2011

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Cavendish_winning_stage_in_TDF_Green_Jersey

Letter from Leonard Callejo, Groove Subaru Racing Team in response to “Winning doesn’t guarantee cycling sponsorship!”

Al – you raise very good points that apply to teams at all levels (local, regional, national, worldwide).  Sponsorship is an ongoing, constant process if you want to be able to successfully maintain a team year-over-year.  And the best way to attract new sponsors and to maintain old sponsors is to be able to show a return on their investment. Sponsors are looking to your team as a marketing vehicle that will provide them exposure to their target audience and be an extension of their brand – meaning that by wearing their corporate logo and colors, you will represent their brand as they intend and promote their product or service all of the time, resulting ultimately in increased sales (and at a minimum, increased awareness). Teams that are able to measurably show that thru their activities (such as racing in races, promoting and holding races, participating in fund raisers, doing local community work, etc.) they will in effect be an extension of the sponsors marketing department, and thereby be in alignment with the sponsors marketing goals, the greater the chance they have at securing sponsorships.

Many racers believe it’s all about winning.  Well, as HTC has shown, it’s not all about winning, rather, it’s all about marketing/business. I would suspect that despite all of HTC’s victories, Bob Stapleton’s biggest challenge was showing how much revenue his team generated for HTC as a return on their investment in the team over the years, and if he was able to pull together some numbers, I would assume that compared to other marketing vehicles, the ROI on his team was comparatively much less.

And just like in the pros (e.g., Garmin, Sky, Leopard-Trek, etc.), at the local level the majority of the teams that remain viable year-over-year are primarily bankrolled by one person/company who share in the passion of cycling and recognize that the ROI in that investment, from a business perspective, will be limited.

So the ultimate winning formula in today’s cycling world is to find a wealthy investor/company that has passion for cycling, along with concrete measurable business stats on how your cycling team will be an effective extension of that sponsor’s marketing department and thereby lead to an increase in their revenue. At the end of the day, it’s not about winning more races, rather it’s about winning more customers for the sponsor.

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Cycling Sponsorship for events: How to get it & keep it!

If you have not read “The secret handshake for bicycle racing sponsorship in the U.S.” you’re missing out! This is an extremely valuable article explaining why the Nature Valley Valley Grand Prix and the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival have been extremely successful. David LaPorte, executive director, Nature Valley Bicycle Festival, explains how his event has successfully retained its title sponsor for over a decade by using cycling sponsorship of bicycle racing to help not only meet, but exceed Nature Valley’s objectives!

A few highlights from “The secret handshake for bicycle racing sponsorship in the U.S.”which jumped out at me:

Non-cycling industry companies don’t provide cycling sponsorship because they have a passion or interest in cycling. Companies sponsor cycling for business reasons and motivations. Sponsorship is an important tactic in a comprehensive strategy and marketing plan to drive sales, revenue and market share. Cycling sponsorship is an effective marketing platform for companies to reach their target audience, to attain greater visibility in existing or new market segments. Additional visibility gained through sponsorship drives awareness, which drives interest, which drives traffic to stores and websites, which drives sales and market share. Visibility also drives image for a company (Nature Valley = healthy nutrition alternatives) which can align with cycling’s demographic, and the demographic of consumers following cycling. This helps a company reshape the image of their brand, making it potentially appealing to a wider market segment (or, to a new market segment). This drives dollars!

So having a dominant team or an epic event won’t rake in the cash. If a sponsorship property doesn’t advance the marketing goals of the client, it’s toast. Or, more likely, it won’t have even gotten in the door in the first place.” Look at HTC-Highroad! They have been the most dominant team on the UCI circuit. They have won more races in the past three years than every other team, yet they may potentially lose HTC as their title sponsor. Cycling sponsorship is about delivering business value and helping a company meet their business goals and objectives (increasing sales, revenue, market share; penetrate new markets or segments; drive increases in brand recognition, brand loyalty; drive positive PR for their company/brand etc.). Clubs, teams and events must articulate how and why sponsorship will help achieve companies objectives.

ROI is KEY!

For every dollar a company invests your club, team or event they expect to receive a tangible return on their investment —  increased traffic, increased brand awareness, increased sales, increased market share.

Cycling sponsorship has to deliver ROI for dollars invested. The sponsoring company wants to achieve their goals (increasing sales, revenue, market share; penetrate new markets or segments; drive increases in brand recognition, brand loyalty; drive positive PR for their company/brand etc.). A club, team or event can help companies achieve these goals through participation in events (races, rallies, charity rides, training rides), community involvement (cycling initiatives contribute to “green”, resolving transportation issues, health & wellness), communications (through a club/teams website, blogs, social media, newsletters, press releases, etc.). Activities as mentioned above help sponsoring companies become more visible and aid in reaching their audience. Companies sponsoring clubs or teams involved in community activities help demonstrate their support of important social  and community concerns; this in turn drives a positive image, recognition for their brand and potentially brand loyalty. The bottom line is cycling clubs, teams and events need to position themselves as platform to contribute to a sponsors’ business and PR objectives and philanthropic initiatives.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”

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How to get a cycling sponsorship NOW!

How to get a cycling sponsorship now for your club, team or event? The timing is perfect with the Tour de France underway - exciting stage finishes, record crowds and worldwide audiences receiving hours of daily coverage via every medium possible. If there was ever a time to take advantage of having sponsorship conversations and discussing the value of cycling sponsorship to companies — it’s NOW!

Simple steps on how to get cycling sponsorship NOW!

Hit your social network hard: Take the time to review your social media connections. Finding prospective sponsors by through your social media network could lead to “warm” business introductions (you know someone in common vs. a “cold” call where neither of you know anything about each other).

Sponsored riders breakaway to win and to provide TV time for their sponsors

Use social media and social networking to find companies that could be prospective sponsors, and as a vehicle to help prospective sponsors find you. Effective use of social networking tools as faceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter can be used to provide your club or team with better visibility, particularly if you leverage the correct words and phrases (those your audience would use to find organizations to sponsor, or to help them solve a problem). Social media and social networking can help you identify, research, and subsequently engage companies that might be potential candidates to sponsor your club, team or event.

Research & engage companies that are active in your community or that might have a natural tie in with your club (offer products that can be marketed or sold to the cycling demographic, consumers in the healthy, active lifestyle segment, etc.). These companies will see the value of aligning with your club to support the community and its constituents. This is also excellent PR for companies which can lead to increased brand awareness and recognition, and customer loyalty. (Please see “How do you find companies or individuals to engage in cycling sponsorship discussions? Where do you start?” for more information)

Look for companies experiencing change such as expansion (as pointed out in 5-hour Energy post), a merger or acquisitions, a new product announcements or management changes. These could all be a signal for a potential sponsorship opportunity. New products might target a segment which aligns with cycling’s demographic. An acquisition or merger could mean the company needs to re-evaluate their branding. Cycling sponsorship is an excellent vehicle for helping a company to “get the word out.”

Understand your audience – Identifying how your audience views sponsorship, the importance they place upon it for achieving their business objectives, philanthropic goals, public image; gives you immediate insight into how to find prospective sponsors, and how to assist them in finding you. By using keywords, terms and phrases; in your sponsorship proposals, sponsorship letters, newsletters and news releases, on your web and social media sites; you automatically increase your ability to attract companies and organizations that might have an interest in supporting your club, team, or event. The key again is to focus on the prospective sponsor and their needs. (Please also see “Securing cycling sponsorship by understanding why companies sponsor?”)

Sell the value of cycling sponsorship as a marketing tool.

Cycling provides a highly visible, and effective, marketing and advertising platform helping companies reach their target audience. Many companies are implementing marketing strategies that take advantage of the continued growth of cycling, the health & wellness market segment and eco-friendly transportation. Innovative companies are aligning their offerings with these trends to fuel incremental growth and sales.

Cycling sponsorship provides visibility for companies, brands, products and services

Position your cycling clubs’ activities and initiatives (group rides, rally’s, races, and safe cycling campaigns), community service, and external communications (website, social media, and news releases) as an effective marketing engine to showcase a company’s brand, products and services.

Cost effective alternative to traditional marketing, advertising and public relations methods: Sponsorship of your cycling club will provide companies with an efficient medium for getting their key messages into the market. Chris Baldwin’s Reuters article “Sponsors see value in backing cycling teams” demonstrates the affordability, reach, and effectiveness of cycling sponsorship to promote a brand, increase brand visibility, awareness and sales, vs. traditional advertising, marketing and public relations channels.

Provides platform to generate positive PR: Cycling sponsorship creates opportunities for companies to demonstrate social responsibility while driving brand visibility and recognition. Cycling addresses issues as health and wellness, environmental and ecological concerns, “green”, alternative transportation, and air quality/pollution. Sponsoring cycling helps companies demonstrate social responsibility, philanthropy and community involvement, which are key components garnering positive PR by “serving the greater good”, resulting in increased brand visibility and recognition. Positive PR can lead to increased consumer loyalty, sales and revenue.

Cycling events can contribute to tourism and economic base for a community: Events are huge for communities. A community sponsoring a successful cycling event can benefit from tourism by bringing visitors to town, in a rapidly growing demographic, that would spend money and help provide a boost for the local economy. (Please see

Opens new markets and segments for sponsors: Cycling is a rapidly growing market segment and demographic corporate sponsors can leverage: The cycling demographic is continuing to grow as the second most popular recreational activity in the United States. According to the National Association of Sporting Goods Retailers study, in 2010 the U.S. had approximately 60+ million people participating in our sport (48 million adults; 14.3 million children). In addition, the study noted the total U.S. spectator base as 11 million people. Cycling sponsorship offers companies as Quiznos5-hour Energy, HTC and OptumHealth additional exposure in our market segment, while providing an opportunity to take advantage of the growing global trend of the healthy, active lifestyle market.

Customize your content to your audience: Make sure that your sponsorship proposal, sponsorship letter, areas of your website, and all communications geared towards securing sponsorship and funding are customized to address the specific issues of the intended audience. Follow the basic premise of why companies sponsor – to make money, to save money, for image! Sell your story by integrating your club, team, or events value with their goals and objectives, describing how you can help solve their problems. (There are several blog posts dedicated to Developing Effective Sponsorship Proposals III, and Sponsorship Letters)

Get your existing sponsors to talk about you: There is no better endorsement than to have a happy sponsor talk about what you have provided for their company or organization. Quotes and references can help to illustrate the value your club, team or event provided. Building a reference story describing how one of your existing sponsor views your value is even better! This lends immediate credibility to the value your club or team can deliver. Furthermore, quotes, references and reference stories, lend themselves very well to sponsorship proposals, sponsorship letters, web and social media sites. Not to mention, it also helps to spread the word, helping other companies find you! (See “Using Quotes and References” category for additional information)

Well, that’s it for today.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, to “Keep the rubber side down!”

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2011 Tour: A recipe for cycling sponsorship success!

2011 Tour will drive value for cycling sponsorship!

The Tour de France, A.S.O. and the sponsors of the 22 participating teams have got to be licking their chops in anticipation of the unprecedented global media exposure this year’s race will receive. Why? Because controversy fuels discussion, passion, interest, attendance and viewers! Controversy also fuels dollars; think sponsors, advertisers, vendors, tourism, restaurants, etc. You’re going to hear about the Tour and how things unfolds in any and every possible format you can imagine. Sponsors, advertisers, the A.SO., France and participating countries are counting on it!

Fans will pack the roads along the race route while those not lucky enough to attend will watch the drama both on the road and behind the scenes. Cycling and non-cycling enthusiasts are going to tune in, blog, tweet, party and/or protest as the Grand Boucle unfolds. Many will follow this years Tour to witness whether or not, arguably, one of the best Grand Tour riders in history can win his 7th straight, 3 week race! Some will watch to see if the runner up from the last two editions can finally take the final step to the top of the podium. Yet others will watch to see if another “shoe will drop” revealing new revelations of doping, performance enhancement, tainted food, or foreign dispersants or additives are once again found where they shouldn’t be!

2011 Tour Recipe for cycling sponsorship success!

The bottom line: despite ominous comments foreshadowing the demise of cycling, once again, the Tour will be heavily attended and will draw large global audiences to watch the race.

When you mix:

  • 2 parts Rivalry (Contador vs. Schleck and everyone else; Riis vs. Schleck brothers and his old team)
  • 2 parts Intrigue (Is Contador guilty or innocent? Accusations against previous Tour champions)
  • 1 part Conspiracy Theory = Spanish Cycling Federation + UCI + WADA + Court of Arbitration for Sport
  • 3 parts Action (The race itself!)

And, shake vigorously (and the media will)!

You get every sponsor and advertiser’s dream — eyeballs seeing their brand as the Tour and the plot develops. The end result, Tour organizer A.S.O., team sponsors and advertisers are going to take advantage of the extraordinary marketing opportunities presented by global exposure, and will be laughing all the way to the bank!

4 Reasons why the 2011 Tour is a recipe for sponsorship & marketing success!

01) Alberto Contador’s participation is going to drive attendance and ratings! Period!

Whether you like him or not, believe he is guilty or falsely accused (or, receiving preferential treatment) Alberto Contador’s participation in this year’s Tour is fueling increased interest and awareness in the race and in the sport of cycling. Cyclists, journalists, sports prognosticators and fans are taking sides about whether Contador should even be in the race, if he is guilty of using PED’s and blood dopers, and if he will win this year’s Grand Boucle. This year’s event with Contador’s participation is a sponsor, advertiser, marketing executives dream. The Tour will deliver increased visibility and press coverage, along with exceptional opportunities for extensive market reach. It’s a captivating story. From a sponsorship perspective there is nothing better than supporting an event which delivers increased visibility, awareness and interest for your brand! Because increased interest can drive increased traffic, sales, revenue and market share.

02) The Tour and cycling will take center stage for the majority of July! Delivering unprecedented visibility and reach!

The media will continue to pump the bellows of controversy to keep the Contador and Armstrong stories alive!

The cycling journalists, and some of you, have been fanning the flame since the “tainted beef”, clenbuterol, story broke in September, 2010. The aftermath has had more twists and turns than a B-grade movie!

In January, 2011, Sports Illustrated vaulted to the front of the media caravan by summoning ghosts from Tours past when it released its expose “The Case Against Lance Armstrong”. Of course, this was cleverly timed with the interest generated by the NFL playoffs to increase readership and sales. Meanwhile countless professional cyclists have been paraded before us as they were summoned to testify in front of a Federal Grand Jury ala Barry Bonds and Marion Jones.

Not to be outdone, 60 Minutes poured gasoline on the story with its primetime Tyler Hamilton interview. Of course, the interview resulted in a swift and defensive response foretelling the demise of our sport with the quote; “…..this is going to kill the sport of cycling.” (Ed. – Uh, no don’t think so!)

Again, the media is going to make sure every angle of the Tour is covered. For almost an entire month cycling, the Tour de France, and every company sponsoring cycling is going to be the center of attention. Everyone is talking about it. The media has seen to that, as has the Spanish Cycling Federation, the UCI, WADA and the A.S.O.

Why is this good for the Tour, cycling and sponsorship?

Controversy fuels discussion, passion, interest, attendance and viewers! Controversy also fuels dollars; think sponsors, advertisers, vendors, tourism, restaurants, you name it. You’re going to hear about the Tour and how things unfold regardless of whether you want to or not. Sponsors, advertisers, the A.SO., France and participating countries are counting on people watching, reading, texting, talking, debating….And, sponsors are hoping throughout the next month that you see their company and brand name emblazoned across helmets, jersey’s and bib’s!  They want Contador at the Tour! Regardless of whether it is to applaud or boo him (respectfully, the UCI asks). And, they want you to tune in and pay attention! Which leads to my next point.

03) Companies sponsoring cycling get it! And, so should you!

The major sponsors of the 22 Tour teams starting the Tour encompass 22 separate  industries. Think you might have a company in your area that you could approach regarding cycling sponsorship? One that is similar to one of these 22 companies? You bet! Point to the lead sponsoring companies as examples when you approaching prospective sponsors. I mean, check it out:

  • Telecommunications, Cable Providers, Cellular: 4 (Movistar, Euskaltel, Sky, HTC)
  • Banks, Financial Services & Insurance: 4 (Saxo Bank, AG2R, Cofidis, Rabobank)
  • Sports Management Companies: 2 (Leopard, Highroad)
  • Lotteries: 2 (FDJ, Lotto)
  • Rental Car companies: 1 (Europcar)
  • Retailer: 1 (RadioShack)
  • Manufacturing companies: 2 (Quick Step, Lampre-ISD, Omega Pharma, Garmin)
  • Pharmaceuticals: 1 (Omega Pharma)
  • Environmental Products & Services: 1 (Saur)
  • Food Producer: 1 (Sojasun)
  • Information & Software Technology: 1 (Sungard)
  • Natural Gas Distributor:1 (Liquigas)
  • Campgrounds: 1 (Vacansoleil)
  • Plant Food Producer: 1 (DCM)
  • Cycling Foundation & Development Teams: 2 (Katusha, Euskadi)
  • Bicycle Manufacturers: 4 (Cannondale, Trek, BMC, Cervelo)

Non-cycling related companies sponsoring Tour teams: 22 (And, these are only the headline sponsors).

04) What can you do? And, why is the 2011 Tour good for cycling and cycling sponsorship?

See what’s happening? Everyone is talking about cycling in one form or fashion. This is extroadinary coverage of the sport we love. Take advantage of the spotlight cast on cycling. Your club has nothing to be defensive about. The sport is no longer the same it was ten years ago with previous Tour victories being in question. And, it will be cleaner, and better in 5 years than it is today! Companies are still heartily ponying up marketing and advertising dollars to sponsor teams participating in the Tour, continental, amateur clubs and teams and cycling events. (See attached link for more information on companies sponsoring professional teams)

Use this opportunity when cycling has the spotlight to sell the value of our sport to companies large and small, regardless of industry or location. Point out how companies sponsoring the professional teams participating in the Tour are receiving incredible exposure for their company, brand, products and services. When loyal domestiques go off the front, fry in the sun and are battered by winds for hours, explain how this is a tactic to not just attempt to win, but more so to provide exposure for the sponsors emblazoned across the jersey’s, helmets, shorts and butt! Television cameras, photographers, eyeballs in person, and on television, internet, from smart phone, laptop, are all capturing and displaying the action. (Also, see “Tips on how to get a cycling sponsorship”)

Regardless of where your allegiance falls this year’s Tour is going to be good for cycling and and an even better example of how media exposure and cycling drive value for sponsors.

Enjoy the Tour!

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Report of cycling’s death greatly exaggerated!

Response to VeloNews Armstrong Exclusive: “This is going to kill cycling”

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I have to take issue with your quote“…but this [controversy], at a time when the sport has made significant changes, is going to kill it.” (VeloNews, July 2011)

Sorry, but, no don’t think so!

The sport of cycling is bigger than any individual champion and the myriad of accusers and alleged swirling accusations. As long as cyclists continue to race, fans continue to attend races (or watch broadcasts), purchase bikes and accessories, companies will continue to invest in the sport as a marketing, advertising and PR vehicle. Companies sponsoring cycling get it! They recognize their investment in sponsoring professional, amateur, recreational cyclists, races, events, etc. gives them unprecedented visibility and reach. That’s right; companies will continue to leverage this beautiful sport to drive value and create visibility for their brand, products and services, and to reach their target market and consumer.

So, as long as people are attending European classics, the Giro, Tour of California and Philadelphia Championships, and the impending Tour de France, our sport will be just fine. As far as American racing is concerned, there are tons of races that have endured (and prospered) for several decades: Nevada City Classic, Cascade Cycling Classic, Athens Twilight, Tour of the Gila, Redlands Classic. (See Neal Rogers article “The Key to Longevity – Community”, VeloNews, November 2010).

People are not going to stop riding their bikes, nor will people stop buying bikes (even that particular brand you ride made in Waterloo, Wisconsin). Professionals are going to continue to race, and new riders and racers will enter our sport. All of this will facilitate companies continuing to sponsor cycling in some form or fashion!

What kills a sport is when events are canceled like the 1994 MLB World Series, or entire seasons are canceled like the 2004 – 2005 NHL season (and, potentially the upcoming 2011 – 2012 NFL season). Doping and Performance Enhancing Drugs and associated controversy don’t kill sports alone! Fans losing interest kills sports which subsequently drives away sponsors, ultimately resulting in the sport flat-lining!

Although this might be a painful process for you Mr. Armstrong cycling is going to continue to grow and prosper. New sponsors are entering the sport every year. Sure, some leave, but in the long run, this is nothing more than a back story! Kind of like a good piece of fiction:  interesting plot, protagonists and antagonists, people will take sides, debate and become overly emotional. The sport of cycling has survived decades of controversy, (2) World Wars, recessions and depressions, natural and human inflicted disasters. Our sport has shown it is quite resilient and at the moment is experiencing a renaissance with an emphasis on clean racing. As you mentioned to John Wilcockson, the current controversy might impede sponsorship negotiations with HTC, Team RadioShack, Garmin and Amgen. However, there are multiple, recent examples of global and American corporations stepping up each year to sponsor our wonderful sport.

So, just as the peloton so deftly maneuvers around a crash and continues down the road, so too will the sport of cycling! In other words, the reports of cycling’s death are greatly exaggerated. (Sorry Mark Twain I stole shamelessly!)

I wish you the best of luck in this latest controversy and with your incredible foundation. But, the sport will be just fine.

Thanks again for visiting. Remember, until next time, to “Keep the rubber side down!”

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Tips on how to get a cycling sponsorship!

A few quick tips on how to get a cycling sponsorship!

You cycling club will increase its chances of getting sponsorship by focusing on delivering business value. In other words, the business reasons a company should sponsor your cycling club.

Business value of cycling sponsorship to companies:

Increase brand visibility & sales: Cycling provides a highly visible, and effective, marketing and advertising platform helping companies reach their target audience. Many companies are implementing marketing strategies that take advantage of the continued growth of cycling, the health & wellness market segment and eco-friendly transportation. Innovative companies are aligning their offerings with these trends to fuel incremental growth and sales.

Position your cycling clubs’ activities and initiatives (group rides, rally’s, races, and safe cycling campaigns), community service, and external communications (website, social media, and news releases) as an effective marketing engine to showcase a company’s brand, products and services.

Inexpensive yet highly effective marketing tool: Sponsorship of your cycling club will provide companies with an efficient medium for getting their key messages into the market. Chris Baldwin’s Reuters article “Sponsors see value in backing cycling teams” demonstrates the affordability, reach, and effectiveness of cycling sponsorship to promote a brand, increase brand visibility, awareness and sales, vs. traditional advertising, marketing and public relations channels.

Lucrative and growing demographic: The cycling demographic is continuing to grow globally and is the second most popular recreational activity in the United States. Cycling sponsorship offers companies additional exposure in our demographic, while providing the opportunity to exploit of the growing healthy, active lifestyle market. Last but not least, the study noted annual median household income for racing, recreational and cycling fans to be $ 75K – $ 95K. This is a great statistic to use with prospective sponsors.

Drives positive image with consumers: Perceived image is extremely important and can often impact sales and brand loyalty. One way companies can bolster image is to demonstrate social responsibility & concern through support of societal concerns, their communities and “green” initiatives. Cycling addresses each of these areas (examples: societal concerns; health, transportation; community; environmental, traffic congestion; “green”; alternative transportation, air quality). Sponsoring cycling clubs and programs helps companies demonstrate social responsibility, philanthropy and community involvement which are a key component to promoting positive PR by “serving the greater good” while driving brand visibility and recognition. (Please see “Secure cycling sponsorship by understanding why companies sponsor” for additional information)

Creates new business opportunities: Sponsorship provides companies with Business-to-Business (B2B) opportunities helping them identify and establish complementary partnerships to drive incremental sales and revenue. The additional exposure sponsors receive to your club’s other sponsors and companies sponsoring cycling events can lead to mutually beneficial business partnerships. (Please see “Leveraging B2B to drive added value for your cycling club’s sponsors” for more information)

Hope this helps your cycling sponsorship efforts.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, to “Keep the rubber side down!”

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Handling objections regarding cycling sponsorship

Inevitably, at one point or another, you are going to receive objections regarding sponsorship of your club, the “perceived state of cycling” or your cycling sponsorship proposal. These objections may be driven by legitimate concerns, misconceptions or misunderstanding from something read or seen. Or, questions and objections might conceal a deeper underlying concern regarding sponsorship of your cycling club. Getting to down to the real reason a prospective sponsor says “no”can help you accurately identify their issue, enable you to respond appropriately and continue to advance through the cycling sponsorship process. Following a few simple steps can help you effectively respond to objections, pushback, questions or concerns.

Five tips for handling objections:

01) Before responding always clarify that you understand the question or objection. The best way to do this is to restate what you heard. Many times it seems that it is easiest to simply respond. However, in a lot of cases we may have a different interpretation of the question or objection, than the person stating it intended. Responding without having a true idea of the your sponsor’s or prospective sponsor’s position only complicates the issue further.

02) It’s best to ask additional questions to understand why they are posing questions and objections. Asking questions of your own will help you understand the reason and motivation behind the prospective sponsor’s questions. (What the person is objecting to and why: sponsorship proposal, sponsorship letter, perception of cycling sponsorship, etc.)  This often enables you to uncover the underlying reasons behind their questions or objections. It also gives you the time to listen to their responses, formulate answers, explore alternative solutions or propose other options.

03) Take a moment to confirm that you have interpreted their question, concerns and point of view correctly. You want to do this in order to be absolutely sure that you have interpreted their perspective in the way they intended. Simply summarize the major points you have covered in trying to understand their question or objection.

04) Next, take the time to acknowledge their point of view. This is very important, even if they have misinterpreted something about our sport or your proposal. The purpose is to confirm that you understand their issue and how they might have arrived at a specific conclusion. After all, it is their point of view, and even if you disagree you must be tactful and not make them feel uncomfortable. Remember, you are trying to get them to provide your club with cycling sponsorship and funding.

05) Last, respond in a thoughtful manner. In other words, take the information you have gained by asking additional questions, exploring alternatives , and respond to their question or objection by focusing on the overall benefits cycling sponsorship will provide. Use the context of their original question or objection as a guide for your response.

In spite of some of the recent negative exposure our sport is receiving, whether warranted or not, there are a lot of really good things happening which you can leverage during your sponsorship discussions. Cycling continues to grow as a major participant and spectator sport providing additional visibility and awareness for companies sponsoring cycling. Companies and cities are continuing to invest in cycling sponsorship as a means to promote their community, brand, products or services. Lastly, the minimal cost of cycling sponsorship when compared to traditional sports provides and excellent value and return on investment for sponsors, as well as an effective vehicle to augment existing marketing, advertising and PR campaigns.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”

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