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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