Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Dieter Drake, General Manager/CEO, Anthem Sport Events, and the mastermind behind the successful, and iconic, Tour of the Battenkill, America’s toughest road race. Our discussion focused on three areas:
- Why the Tour of the Battenkill has become so successful;
- How Anthem Sports was able to secure event sponsorship from corporations like Pepsi;
- The role community involvement played in the races success.
The goal of the interview was to provide cycling clubs key points, and insights, they can use in their event sponsorship efforts.
What key factors contributed to the growth and success of the Tour of the Battenkill?
Race Venue: Dieter discussed how the epic nature of the Tour of the Battenkill; up to 100 miles of racing across 8 sections of dirt roads, with 4,000 feet of climbing; has gained increasing popularity with cyclists who want to participate in European classics style racing in the North America. Being able to race a course, in the vein of the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix, with 25% of the course comprised of dirt roads is not only different and challenging, but it is extremely alluring and appealing to many pro and amateur racers.
Community Support & Volunteers: Equally important to the races success has been the support from the Cambridge community. Think of it, Cambridge, NY has 1,000 residents, yet Dieter has 400 volunteers from the Cambridge community supporting his race every year! Volunteers provide event support, Fire & Rescue, Police and Infrastructure support.
Why has the community embraced The Tour of the Battenkill?
Problem: A town in need of new sources of revenue.
Cambridge, NY has historically been an agricultural community. The continued transformation of the U.S., away from its agricultural roots, to industry, and now to a service based economy, heavily impacted small, traditionally agricultural towns as Cambridge. Making matters worse was the loss of companies which helped support the local economy. Cambridge like so many other communities needed to find new avenues to drive revenue for the village and local businesses.
Solution: Bicycle racing drives tourism and revenue for communities!
Jason Sumner’s VeloNews article “Battening Down The Hatches” describes how Dieter’s entree’ into event promotion of the Cambridge Valley Balloon Festival Classic bicycle race was the first step in “introducing bike racing – and it’s potential benefits – to an otherwise sleepy town trying to establish itself as a viable tourist destination.” Dieter’s efforts with the Cambridge Valley Balloon Festival Classic, and the Tour of the Battenkill, demonstrated how a unique, well run, bicycle race could provide a solution to a problem for the town. Scheduling the Tour of the Battenkill in April would achieve a couple of objectives:
Draw tourist to Cambridge, NY, during the early spring when “normally you could roll a bowling ball down Main Street and not hit anybody”, creating revenue opportunities for businesses and the local economy.
Help get people involved in the sport of cycling whether they were racing, participating in the Pro/Am Races or Bike Marathon, or volunteering.
Dieter’s strategy and event would help Cambridge and the local economy by:
- Bringing visitors to town, in a rapidly growing demographic, that would spend money and help provide a boost for the local economy.
- Driving tourism revenue during a traditionally slow time of year.
- Promoting Cambridge, NY and surrounding areas as a viable travel destination.
Result: The partnership between Anthem Sports and the Village of Cambridge paid off! The combination of unique appeal of “hard man style” racing, the venue and early spring scheduling attracts 2,500 racing participants, and typically 10 – 15K people during the two weekends the Tour of the Battenkill is scheduled. (3:1 ratio of spectators and family members: racers). An influx of this many people drives a lot of revenue for local businesses, while helping to establish Cambridge as a viable vacation spot!
Cycling provides a highly visible, and effective, marketing and advertising platform aiding companies in reaching their targeted demographic.
Dieter explained how Pepsi leverages a natural tie in with cycling, and the fitness minded, health oriented market, with their Gatorade, Aquafina and Lipton Tea brands. The Tour of the Battenkill provides Pepsi with an efficient way to receive exposure and visibility for their products through sponsorship of the race. Sponsorship enables Pepsi to promote their brands (Gatorade, Aquafina and Lipton Tea) as healthy alternatives to traditional sugary soft drinks. This drives greater brand recognition among racers, participants, volunteers and residents. Pepsi’s marketing includes parking a truck at the races finish line the week before the race, handing out free drinks during the event, along with prominently displaying their logo on the winner’s podium. Additionally, Pepsi viewed The Tour of the Battenkill as an opportunity to promote their brands through grassroots marketing, by engaging local schools and offering “non-sugary”, healthy, beverage alternatives.
Lastly, sponsors as Pepsi can use cycling to drive greater brand visibility, recognition, and awareness on local, regional, national and international levels. Aligning with cycling, The Tour of the Battenkill, and Anthem Sports’ newest races, “The Great American Cycling Series”, will offer additional opportunities for companies to promote their brand and products, while offering cities as Washtenaw, MI; Vail, CO and the Catskills, NY region, to capitalize on revenue from cycling and tourism.
The key Dieter stressed for signing non-cycling industry sponsors is to position sponsorship of your club or event as a major advertising opportunity. Discuss the sponsor’s goals, and how you can drive impressions, value, ROI, traffic and sales. Cycling sponsorship is less expensive than other traditional sports as (football, soccer, baseball, basketball), yet it provides a higher ROI for less investment. (Please see “Securing sponsorship by understanding why companies sponsor” and “Articulating the value of cycling sponsorship” for additional information.
Key takeaways for your cycling club:
- Actively engage and involve the community in your event.
- Sell the value of cycling sponsorship in helping companies and communities achieve their goals and objectives.
- Gain an understanding of the problems prospective sponsors and cities might have, and position the sport of cycling as a potential solution.
- Use the visibility of cycling as a means for sponsors to drive increased awareness, interest, value, impressions, sales and market share.
- Discuss why cycling provides higher ROI, with less investment, than many traditional sports.
- Be creative in your cycling club’s approach to events and cycling sponsorship.
Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “Keep the rubber side down!”
P.S. – A very special thanks to Dieter Drake for agreeing to the interview. Really appreciate your time and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with you! Hope to meet you in person someday soon!
- “Pretty @!*$=%&# Hard: The Tour of the Battenkill – the country’s biggest one-day race- is as beautiful as it is brutal”, Brad Ford, Bicycling Magazine, January/February, 2010
- “Conflicted Feelings”, Andrew J. Bernstein, VeloNews, November, 2010
- “Time to Rattle over Rough Roads”, Sean Patrick Farrell, The New York Times, May 12, 2010
- “The Key to Longevity – Community”, Neal Rogers, VeloNews, November, 2010