Idea 4: Education
I once asked a group of riders: “Why does a sponsor pay you money?” It was quite difficult to get an answer. My next question was” “Why does a sponsor STOP paying you money?” Also not easy. This to me is incredible, how can you not know why you are getting paid to do something, and why it may stop? I don’t blame them, I blame management (see idea 3).
So at the first Cervelo TestTeam meeting, this was a big topic of education. The whole story is a bit long, but the crux is that in cycling, winning is not that important. That doesn’t just apply to a team like Cervelo TestTeam which also focuses on other things like product development and fan access, it applies to all teams. Here’s the proof: in most sports, the top team has a budget roughly 10 times bigger than the smallest team in the league . For example, Manchester United’s budget is around 10x that of the bottom of the premier league (Brad Wiggins would argue that’s Wigan). North American sports with a salary cap are obviously a bit different.
In cycling, the delta between the biggest team and team #20 is around 3:1, not 10:1. The reason is that in most sports like soccer, being #20 means you get very little exposure – only if you play #1 and even then you don’t get nearly the exposure of the #1. In cycling, as long as you get into the big races like the Tour, you get exposure. Maybe you don’t contend for the GC, but there will be stages to get into the breakaway, or you fight for the polka dot jersey, or you take a sprint victory. There is exposure to be had for everybody, as long as you get invited. Henceforth, winning isn’t that important, getting invited is, and while there are of course athletic considerations that determine the invites, having the right ethical stance also goes a long way.
With winning being less important than in other sports (remember the 3:1) , why are cycling teams focused so much (and often exclusively) on winning? It doesn’t make sense. So focus on the fans, on product development, on whatever your heart desires. Also on winning, but not at all costs, and hence not at the cost of cheating, as that might just be the one thing that keeps you OUT of the big races.
You can be darn sure Cervelo TestTeam riders know why sponsors are involved in our team.