Some Thoughts On Sponsorship

Oct 29 2009

Yesterday, Outside editor John Bradley tweeted the message I’ve inserted below. It’s a nice thought, and there’s some good logic behind it—Google’s a smart, agile company, with business all over the world. It’s also been running YouTube at a loss for years, so the company isn’t gun-shy about seeing little-to-no direct monetary return on high-profile investments.

team_google_tweet

The problem is, logic has no place in cycling sponsorships. None. Winningest team in the ProTour? American squad sponsored by an American sportswear company that doesn’t even sell cycling apparel. It’s secondary sponsor? A telephone handset manufacturer that barely produces any phones under it’s own brand in the US. Does any of this make sense? Of course not.

It’s tempting to pin the roots of this nonsense on the old US Postal Service squads, which promoted a domestic American mail service all across Europe for six full years. The squad was then taken over by Discovery Channel, who, other than a few glib commercials, gave zero airtime to the exploits of the team. Money well spent, no doubt.

You’d think things would be better over in Europe, where people at least have a decent grasp of the sport’s nuances. But no: Quick.Step? It’s a flooring company. And nothing sells a smooth, clean, well-laid hardwood kitchen floor like mud-spattered Belgians ricocheting off the hilliest, lumpiest, most mangled cobblestone roads in the world.

Just look at the businesses lining up next season. Footon? First off, the company needs to learn how to use the Internet—the first Google result is from Urban Dictionary, and footon.com, .net and .dk are all similarly unhelpful. If it weren’t for Andrew Hood, I’d have no idea that Footon is (drum roll) a Danish foot-beds manufacturer.

So Denmark + footwear + cycling…what comes to mind? Oh yeah. That’s exactly what a squad that’s trying to shed the image of its dope-laiden past is going for. I’m totally gonna invite these guys to my ProTour race, esepcially when The Chicken himself has said he’s got a top-tier ride for next season, but hasn’t revealed who it is yet.

I don’t want to insist outright that Rasmussen will be riding for Footon-Servetto next season, but a Danish sponsor—when the other big Danish name is spoken for—is pretty compelling evidence.

Then there’s De Rosa/Stac Plastic. In case you don’t read The Economist (article reproduced illegally here), everything in cycling is made in the same East Asian factories, and branding is key to a successful enterprise. So what better name to pair with a high-end classic like De Rosa than “Stac Plastic”. It adds so much to the gravitas, does it not?

Rather than the plastic storage bins or Lego-knockoffs you might imagine a company named “Stac Plastic” producing, it turns out the firm is actually a manufacturer of spray adhesives. I learned this from their totally sweet website (motion gifs? <frame> tags? BALLER.) that—in addition to pointing out their official sponsorship of Team LPR—features not one, not two, but three riders who have failed drug tests in the past two years. Could you ask for better brand representation? I think not.

So on second thought, #TeamGoogle might not be that much of a stretch. The Internet is rife with cycling sites that look like they’ve been optimized for IE 2.0 and that display none of the customization and versatility that’ve become the hallmark of the Modern Internet Venture. If nonsense sponsorship really is the rule in the cycling world, it’s not a matter of if there’ll be a Team Google, but when.

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13 Responses to “Some Thoughts On Sponsorship”

  1. Thure The Dane 29 October 2009 at 1:45 pm #

    Hej Cosmo,

    You can direct your wrath at Andrew Hood of Velonews for doing crap “i’ll give it a quick google and write my piece” becuase footon is not “a Danish foot-bed company” like he writes.

    Futon is a Danish company that makes beds. But I just spend a good 30 min. of my precious time trying to find out what the heck footon is and the closest i got was that it’s a swiss company – which makes sense since multi-doper Gianetti is running the show.

    /thure

  2. Baz 29 October 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Thure:

    http://www.footon.it/en/

    My google technique is unstoppable.

    -Baz

  3. ryank 29 October 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    I am still floored that Discovery didn’t try to milk their sponsorship more than an episode of “Overhauling” featuring Armstrong and Sheryl Crow.

    However, I think a solid sponsorship would be Apple/Cervelo. Guys who buy Cervelos obviously have no problem dropping piles of money and most Apple products aren’t cheap either. It seems like a well matched demographic – Quality (and expensive) bikes paired with quality (and usually expensive, but I don’t mind paying for it!) electronics.

    Plus they’d have ALL white kits. Jon Ive-designed kits? Shiiiiiit.

  4. Marcello 29 October 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    One more team to include in the list is the Diana/Colnago squad from the 90s. Giuseppe Saronni’s squad sponsored by a women’s shoe company.
    http://cyclingwebsite.net/ploegfiche.php?id=8058

  5. Dan 29 October 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    and thats why Radioshack seems a likely success. My buddy and i think too logically about this kind of thing in the off-season, and a Nike-Livestrong team makes so much sense….so lets put together a team…radioshack w/no radios on the next Tour fellas’. Makes sense, here’s $30million$. A sure fire way to succeed in cycling.

    my favorite sponsor was Mapei….quickset concrete, now thats a gimme success for a classics team!

  6. joeschmo1of3 29 October 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    Hey Cosmo,

    You forgot to add in Silence-Lotto, which just happens to be selling sleep aids. And back when they were Predictor-Lotto, Omega Pharma was selling pregancy tests. Go figure on these combinations with cycling.

  7. Sebastian 30 October 2009 at 12:47 am #

    One logical team sponsor that springs to mind: Molteni made mincemeat.

  8. cosmo 30 October 2009 at 11:07 am #

    See, I figured at first that it was company that made futons, but the spelling just seemed too hilarious.

    Now I have no idea what’s going on—is Footon the Italian company is the new sponsor? Are the Danes in any way involved? And why are companies who haven’t gotten around to promoting themselves via the Internet suddenly promoting themselves via cycling teams (not that I’m complaining).

  9. Dan 30 October 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    here is one that is timelessly cycling: Faema, now that does make sense

  10. iworedettos 30 October 2009 at 12:26 pm #

    stac-plastic is what happens when still more x-fire framed/edge wheel riding 35+ cat4s enter anything twisty at a cx race near you.

    [i may or may not resemble this remark.]

  11. Cameron 1 November 2009 at 11:26 pm #

    Cosmo – What sport has any real correlation between the sponsors and the sport at the top levels? NASCAR: Tide, Budweiser. F1: Lucky Strike, Computer Associates. Pro Stadiums (stadia?): Heinz Field, 3 Com Park, etc…

  12. Dan 2 November 2009 at 11:30 am #

    cameron, nascar indeed does exploit its sponsorship….Lowes, Home-Depot, UPS, BUD, McD’s, southern boys love this crap. Now, not to say cycling shouldn’t, i think its fine that cycling is as much intellectual as anything, therefore we sit back and think…quickstep? hmmmmmmm

  13. Felix 2 June 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    The Tour of California is sponsored by Amgen, a company who manufactures Epogen, and we all know why that is notorious in cycling scandals. Oh the irony…

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