ONE frustration (after another?)

September 17, 2014

Recently I find myself in the unlikely position of quoting Donald Rumsfeld a lot. But in the development of the ONE, the new full suspension, the pathfinder and one more model, I come across these known unknowns, unknown knowns and even unknown unknowns.

That in itself is great, it’s exciting to try and do things that haven’t been done before. The frustrating bit is where those unknowns intersect with the real world, by which I mean the world Andy and our customers live in. As interested as most people seem to be in the way we’re pushing the envelope, in the end they inevitably ask that most dreaded of questions: “when will it be ready?”

The most honest answer and the one we usually give is: “when it is ready.” This doesn’t mean we don’t plan or schedule things in the development phase, but rather that we realize not everything can be planned. Especially those known and unknown unknowns! But sometimes we are a bit less disciplined and we communicate our planned date. Which means we risk ending up looking like a “normal” bike company, promising a release date that is not achieved!

This has happend with the ONE. The frame was almost ready in April, and could have gone into production soon after. But we wanted to make some changes to make it even better, and at OPEN, the pressure to do better is always bigger than the pressure to launch. That is a mindset we can never lose, it’s what makes us us. Our schedule was for those changes to be completed by the end of July, but they weren’t.

The improvements we made created some unknown unknowns in the form of layup complications, and they have taken eight iterations of new layup design, prototype build and testing to solve. That is to say, as of yesterday we think they may be solved, but most likely it will be another 2-3 iterations to get all the test values exactly where we want them. But again, no launch until then.

So there we are, the situation on the ONE. It frustrates Andy and myself, especially since the response from our customers has been so positive about the ONE. But we want to make sure we exceed those already high expectations.

What does this mean for the introduction date of the ONE? “When it’s ready!” We *hope* to be able to announce that all the tests are passed in the next few weeks, and then we can also announce the full production schedule soon after. But we don’t know. What we do know is that you will be the first to know, right here on our blog.

Any good news to finish off this blog? Of course, here’s a photo of what the first full suspension front triangle looked like right out of the mold. Very good quality for a first attempt. Cheers!

la foto 1

To sue or not to sue, that is no question

September 5, 2014

We all laugh about it, the rider who threatens legal action just to try to convince us they really didn’t do what some magazine, newspaper or website alleges. And of course, nothing ever happens. But I thought it would be nice to have a list, because of course the reverse is also true. If no legal action is ever taken, maybe the story was correct.

I can’t find such a list anywhere, so I thought I’d make a modest start. Please help me by adding some in the comments section!

Di Gregorio

ZDF (German TV)
Gazzetta dello Sport
“the media”
Team Cofidis

Providing doping to Sinkewitz
Crashing on purpose
Operacion Puerto
“Clenbuterol not from beef”
Dropped after doping allegation
Speed in Schumacher case
Leaking doping allegation
Buying LBL win

Sep 20, 2007
July 07, 2014
Feb 11, 2013
Oct 11, 2010
Apr 10, 2013
Jan 26, 2009
Oct 12, 2011
Dec 07, 2011








Which ones do you remember?


August 28, 2014
Finally the main Eurobike show has started after a few interesting days. On the weekend, Andy was at the Assos launch for their mountain bike apparel. To accomodate all the journalists on their rides, Andy built up more than a dozen OPEN bikes.

Of course on the day, it was rainy and therefore muddy, so all the brand new bikes looked pretty used at the end of the day. He then drove back home to Basel just in time to pick me up from the airport. We were both pretty knackered when we finally hit the pillow just after midnight, and feeling pretty much the same when the alarm went off five hours later.

A smooth three hour drive to within a kilometer of the Eurobike demo day and another hour to bridge the last k and it was time to send people out on bikes again. Of course Andy brought the foul weather with him so rain greeted us again. The only plus was that there was no point in wasting time on cleaning the bikes from the day before.

The demo day is always a great day for us, it’s an easy way to convince people of OPEN. We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but it’s much more effective to let people ride the bike. While Andy continued helping people on their test rides, I had a chance to pop inside to look at the booth for the main show. 

Like last year, component maker AX Lightness graciously gave us a section of their booth to display our bikes. With a new bike design and very nifty stands, it was starting to look quite slick. Your main question after the last two blog entries is probably WHAT we were going to display on those stands. The bad news is, no full-suspension and no pathfinder bike.

Some of you have asked why we started talking about these bikes before we knew for sure if we would display it, and if it wouldn’t have been easier to say nothing until the day of the show. Of course it would have, but the reason I wrote about those models was not as a sort of “pre-release”, but rather to do what we promised from the start; to show the inner workings of the company. 

Many bike companies go through similar situations, but you’d never know from the outside. When we promised to tell the story “warts and all”, this was part of it. Not that these warts are that huge, Eurobike for us is mostly about meeting up with our retailers, suppliers and other relations, not about launching product. We can do that any time of the year.

Since I wrote “the bad news is …” just before, there must be good news too. And there is. Although we don’t have the fully, we have made some breakthroughs in understanding how it should be made. So the project is on the right track, although there will no doubt be some more unexpected turns before we get to the final product.

When I included the drawing of the frame, some remarked that it looked a bit like the Liteville 301. Well, that’s no coincidence. When Andy and I started working on the full-suspension, we were looking for two different directions. For the one, focused on marathon/cross country with approximately 5″ of travel, we reviewed all possible kinematics and came to the conclusion that we liked the Liteville very much.

Simply put, we think their kinematics are the best we’ve seen, both for the behavior during climbing & descending but also in the way it is packaged (the stresses on the frame) and how clear it leaves the front triangle (space for two water bottles for longer events). So we asked our friends at Liteville if we could use their kinematics, and although they had until that point refused to license their patented design, they liked what we are doing with OPEN and the quality of our products enough to allow us to use it.

Of course we made some adjustments based on the exact use and travel that we envision for our frame, which is a bit different than what the average 301 is used for, and making it in carbon meant we also changed the packaging to best make use of the material. Key to that is our central rocker design which I showed a snapshot of two weeks ago and which is quite a departure from Liteville’s approach. 

Over the next weeks we’ll write more about the details of both the full-suspension and the pathfinder bike, but first we have to try and survive the next few days at Eurobike.

If you’re interested in either of the two bikes, you can put your name on our waiting list and stay informed here.

Talk soon, Gerard.


1 week to showtime

August 22, 2014

Actually, I WISH it was still 1 week to showtime, unfortunately it’s a few days less. A few days that I really could use right now. Last week I wrote about the self-imposed, non-essential goal to show three bikes at Eurobike. A fairly unrealistic goal but you have to dream. Or as they say in German: “Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt” (Hope dies last).

In a perfect world, we could have shown our pathfinder/gravel/adventure frame. In a slightly imperfect world, you lose just three days in machining because the chainstay mold needs to be slightly different than initially thought, and Eurobike is over. I’m really bummed out about that, which is weird since there was absolutely no real reason why we absolutely had to have it at Eurobike to begin with.

So now we’ll take our time and show you a fine sample sometime in the weeks after Eurobike (given Andy’s and my travel immediately following Eurobike, it may take a bit of time though). In the meantime, I will write about some of the design details.

On the full suspension frame, getting a tight timeline has been even tougher. Since we are charting new territory in the design (not so much the suspension principles since it uses a Horst link but in the way the kinematics are translated into the final shapes) and even more so, charting new territory in the way we build it, we run into problems on a daily basis.

To quote an unlikely source in Donald Rumsfeld, there are the “known knowns”, the “unknown knowns”, the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns”. We’re dealing with all four of them, and many issues fall into the worst (the fourth) category. So we’ve learned a lot this week, all problems that we can solve but which take time.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the full suspension at Eurobike, it just means I’ve set a new unrealistic goal of showing at least some parts and maybe only to select retailers.

You may wonder why we don’t simply set realistic goals. One reason is the aforementioned “Hope dies last”, the other reason is that even if we don’t achieve the stated goal of showcasing a new product at Eurobike, the push for such a goal will still get us further than we would have been otherwise.

Anyway, a little side view of the full suspension frame model is below (I know, the side view skilfully shows very little :-).

More soon, for now it’s back to the last preparations for Eurobike, which means a few more long days and then the show itself. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there. We’re in hall B3, booth 108.

BTW, since we are now talking more and more about the pathfinder/gravel/adventure bike and the full suspension, some of you have asked if there is a waiting list. So we’ve made one. Just fill in your info here and you’ll get onto the priority list for either (or both!) models. Then when the bikes go into production, we’ll let you know and you can decide what you would like to do.

OPN-05-000-M_2013-03-17_preliminary handoff (2)

2 weeks to showtime

August 13, 2014

In two weeks, Eurobike starts, which means the whole bike industry is in a mad dash to get everything ready. In most bike companies, a lot of pre-season sales are done at the trade shows, so a failure to get a new model ready in time can be very costly. It always made the month of August the least enjoyable for me.

Aside from the pressure to get ready, there was also the fear that somebody else would show something at Eurobike that was a complete game-changer, something that instantly made everything else obsolete and therefore would threaten our existence. If you’ve ever made somebody else’s product obsolete, the expectance of the favor being returned at some point is only natural. In 15 years, this never happened, but the fear is still there.

Of course, at OPEN we don’t have the pressures of getting product ready for the show. To us, it doesn’t matter if we introduce a new bike in August, January or June. When it’s ready, it’s ready.

Nonetheless, it’s fun to show something new at the trade shows, the only thing different for OPEN is that whatever we show doesn’t necessarily have to be the finished product.

For this year, we set ourselves the target of showing not only the full production version of the ONE, but also the first steps towards our first full-suspension frame and a prototype of our pathfinder/adventure/gravel bike. These are both bikes we’ve been wanting to make for a while, but only if we could figure out how to do it the right way for us. For both, the designs have been finalized, so now it’s down to manufacturing.

Of course both frames will be produced in Europe, but that is where the similarity ends. While the pathfinder/adventure/gravel frame is made at AX, we have started a project with HED to produce the full-suspension parts using Resin Transfer Molding technology. RTM is a way to manufacture carbon that has great potential, but it is very rarely used in bike production.

Traditionally, RTM distinguishes itself by having a super surface finish but less than optimal mechanical properties, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, by using the technology properly, we think we can turn the disadvantage (the weight of the foam inside the frame) into an advantage. Tuning the layup with the foam in mind, it will allow us to build a very tough frame while still being lightweight.

Of course, that’s the theory, we have to see how practice goes. The CAD drawings are finished, the molds have been machined (also the first time molds of this kind were machined at HED, so a good learning curve), and the first parts have been made (below the very first part, which of course was far from perfect but a promising start). Still, from there to a complete and fully functional frame will be quite the journey.

If trying to meet a Eurobike deadline with a new way to make molds and a new process to make the frame is tough, the pathfinder/adventure/gravel frame had its own hurdles. The challenge here was more in the design, in making a contradictory set of components fit without giving up the geometry and fit I want. Once that was all sorted out, we could start moving into production very quickly. But that process started only last week, giving us a total of three weeks to cut the molds and make the first frames. We’ll see!

On top of that, Andy thought it was a good idea to have a new catalog. Not technically difficult, but time-consuming for sure!

Stay tuned to see how it all goes.

Joining Team MTN-Qhubeka

July 22, 2014

Hi all, I thought this announcement may be of interest to some of you. I’m very excited to become involved in a cycling team with a higher purpose, and that Cervelo is as well. Can’t wait for 2015 to roll around.

Cervélo Partners With MTN-Qhubeka For 2015

Johannesburg, South Africa and Toronto, Canada– July 18th, 2014 –Thanks to a new partnership with Cervélo bicycles and Rotor components, Team MTN-Qhubeka continues its ambitious upgrade for 2015 and beyond.

The new Team MTN-Qhubeka partnership is built around a fresh team concept designed to take fan experience and interaction to a whole new level, with Cervélo co-founder Gerard Vroomen heading up the effort. Building on ideas developed with the highly successful Cervélo Test Team of 2009-10, the concept is designed to bring fans closer to the team and its riders than ever before.
Racing ambitions for the team are high. The new partnership allows Team MTN-Qhubeka to support a contingent of talented young African riders, and to match them with seasoned professionals from Europe and North America. The goal is clear: showcase the team and the Qhubeka Foundation within the top echelons of the sport. The rider roster is currently being set and will be announced soon.
“Cervélo has always been synonymous with the highest levels of racing performance, “said team Principal Douglas Ryder. “The new team will be competitive on the world stage, and Cervélo has already won everything from the world championships to cobbled classics like Paris-Roubaix and Grand Tours including the Tour de France. Who better to give Team MTN-Qhubeka’s riders the best opportunity to succeed?”
As Africa’s first Pro Continental team, Team MTN-Qhubeka—and now Cervélo, together with its equipment partner Rotor—races with extra purpose, raising money for the Qhubeka Foundation to bring bicycle mobility to isolated areas of Africa.

“Cervélo is excited at the opportunity to support both the team and the Qhubeka Foundation,” said Cervélo managing director Robert Reijers. “Not just in terms of high-performance racing, but also because we truly believe that by providing cycling mobility, we can directly benefit people’s lives by increasing the distance they can travel, what they can carry, where they can go, and how fast they can get there.”

To support those efforts, Cervélo will initiate programs to actively support the Qhubeka Foundation. The company will introduce team-replica bike models in 2015, with Cervélo donating a Qhubeka Foundation bicycle for every team-replica Cervélo sold.
“We’re delighted that Cervélo has proposed matching its team bike sales with the donation of a Qhubeka bike. It brings the ability to support Qhubeka directly to hundreds of Cervélo retailers and thousands of individual riders worldwide,” said Vroomen. “Like no other bike company, Cervélo understands that cycling needs new and better ways to connect with its fans. It’s a great feeling to align Cervélo’s DNA with the MTN-Qhubeka project.”
About Team MTN-Qhubeka

Team MTN-Qhubeka was founded in 2007, steadily working its way up from a regional team to now being a Continental Pro team with bases in South Africa and Italy. It will participate in its first Grand Tour this fall at the Vuelta a España. MTN-Qhubeka’s goal is to give talented African riders a path into the pro peloton while raising funds for the Qhubeka charity.

Qhubeka is an Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa) word that means “to carry on”, “to progress”, “to move forward”. Qhubeka ( helps people move forward and progress by giving bicycles in return for work done to improve communities, the environment or academic results. Having a bicycle changes people’s lives by increasing the distance they can travel, what they can carry, where they can go and how fast they can get there.

MTN ( is a longtime supporter of Qhubeka and the team. Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a leading emerging market operator, connecting 210 million subscribers in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Learn more about the team at

About Cervélo

Cervélo riders have won Olympic medals, world championships in both road and triathlon disciplines, and a large spectrum of professional major road races from the Paris-Roubaix classic to the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. It remains a company with more engineers than bike models.

Cervélo was founded in in 1995 when two engineering students, Phil White and Gerard Vroomen, decided to market their work developing faster time trial bikes for an Italian professional team. Since that time the company’s unwavering mission has been to create the world’s highest-performing road and triathlon bikes.

Complete information about Cervélo is available at

About Rotor

ROTOR Bike is a world-class Spanish bicycle component company. Every product they make is designed by cyclists for cyclists. All ROTOR products are engineered to lend maximum speed, efficiency and comfort to your cycling experience. ROTOR achieves this goal by combining leading-edge design principles with precision manufacturing techniques for each its products.

Learn more at

The Armstrong Lie – a review

November 24, 2013

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam is currently running, and one of the docs screened is The Armstrong Lie. To be honest, I didn’t really want to see it but also couldn’t not see it. And I figured that in the interest of those following this blog, I should.

As you probably know, director Alex Gibney was asked to make a documentary about Armstrong’s return to cycling in 2009. After shooting what was likely going to be a feel-good story in 2009 and 2010, the doping rumors got stronger and stronger and Gibney halted production. After the USADA report and Oprah confession completely changed the narrative, Gibney took the old footage, added new interviews with Armstrong, the Andreus, Bill Strickland and others and turned the Armstrong Love-in into the Armstrong Lie.

I was expecting that seeing intimate interviews with Armstrong pre-confession and comparing them with post-confession statements could be interesting. Other than that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unfortunately I have to say, I was very disappointed.

The movie basically tells the whole Armstrong story, from triathlete at age 16 through his early career, cancer, comeback and fall from grace.  It jumps back and forth but in the end, everything is covered. This means that unless you’ve lived on the moon the past ten years, you are unlikely to learn much. If you’ve spent that decade not only on earth, but also with some level of interest in cycling, the contents becomes even less exciting.

There’s even space to explain the most rudimentary basics of cycling, such as the common platitudes of “doping is as old as cycling” and “domestiques are helpers to shield the leader from the wind”. Ironically, if you can refrain from plunging your head into the popcorn at these moments, they actually provide some of the most interesting footage.

During the doping-through-the-ages bit, footage of riders raiding a bar and making off with the beer and wine is shown. This footage has of course been available forever, but many will never have seen it (unlike, say, a poster of a smoking peloton).

The footage about domestiques shows footage from a bike-mounted camera while a domestique makes it to the front of the peloton during the Tour de France. It is quite hair-raising.

Other than that, the contents simply disappoints. If you’ve watched 60 minutes or similar programs on Lance before, you don’t need to see the deposition of the Andreus and Armstrong in the 2005 court case again. You don’t need to see Lance deny doping on the View, Larry King, or anywhere else.

What should have been the actual core of the documentary – the unprecedented access – fails to deliver. There are very few interviews with Armstrong, both pre- and post-confession. In short, it’s a different combination of stuff we already know. Even worse, whenever a veil is almost lifted, for example when Strickland basically reveals he discussed with Lance how he could best confess, there is no follow-up.

In the end, the only part that piqued my interest was when Lance talked about his cortisone positive from 1999. After he says that the UCI asked for a prescription, Gibney asked what Verbruggen exactly told him. Lance then answered that he didn’t talk to Verbruggen, that Johan Bruyneel did. This seems to be contradicting Lance’s most recent statements.

Take that for what it’s worth, what it unfortunately wasn’t worth was two hours of my time. So, is there no merit in this movie? I would say that for people who have very little knowledge of the story, this is a good overview. But for those who have followed the events unfold with some interest, it will be old hat.

It might be more fun to watch than the average Hollywood blockbuster simply because the topic interests you, but if you find it playing at a documentary festival and have other options, go see “Return to Homs”, “Ai Weiwei The Fake Case”, “Whatever, forever”  or frankly anything else instead. You’ll be more likely to learn something.

P.S. The other original footage I saw was Lance with one of the Olsen twins (don’t ask me which). I had never seen that before (though I had heard about it) but I can’t honestly say my life has become richer after.

Selling Cycling

October 30, 2013

This is a slightly-modified version of an article that first appeared in issue 8 of 2r magazine. Subscribe to 2r for free HERE.

In my twenty years in cycling, I have experience as a team sponsor working with teams, as a team owner working with bike-industry and outside sponsors, and as an advisor to companies considering a cycling sponsorship. Since not many people have seen the sponsor-bike team relationship from so many different angles, I thought it was time to write about it.

When it comes to sponsors entering cycling, there are some faint indications the worst is over. It’s hard to make definitive statements since the sample size is so small and so many factors are in play, but Blanco turning in to Belkin, Argos turning into ???, the rumored deal between Slipstream and Qatar, Alonso entering cycling and several other pending arrangements seem to point in that direction.

As a former team owner who lived through the post-Lehman drought, these are heartening developments. Yet they are also surprising for a few reasons.

Before I delve into those though, let me start by saying handling sponsorships is hard even at the best of times. When the economy is bad and the sport is in the news for all the wrong reasons, it’s near-impossible. It’s easy to judge it from the sidelines, and in fact that distance can help to see some perspective. In that sense, this article is as much my “Lessons Learned” as it is a view of how teams handle sponsorships today.

Firstly, sponsor acquisition strategies for most teams haven’t really changed that much, and are still relics from the Maurice Garin age.

Some teams work with agencies to find sponsors, but many still do it on their own. This can work – especially when you’re lucky and let me tell you, some teams are extremely lucky – but in general this is a tough route. As a cycling team, you need sponsors so infrequently (assuming they stick around for a while) that it is hard to keep sponsor acquisition skills and contacts current.

As a team, you also don’t have the chance to cross-sell. While an agency may be called in to a company to pitch a golf property, only to find out during the meeting that the company may be better served by cycling, a cycling team would never have gotten into that meeting to begin with.

The second weak spot is how cycling sponsorships are pitched by most teams (though thankfully there are exceptions).

I was invited last year to speak to a large multinational looking to enter the sport. I quickly found out that the teams that had pitched completely failed to address the needs of this company. Their main concern was doping (no surprise), but most teams were either underprepared to address the topic or simply lied about it. One team even presented their internal test program even though it had been cancelled the year before!

Another area of disappointment was the inward focus of the teams. I presented the company with a concept of how to drive the company’s Key Performance Indicators through the sponsorship, but their discussions with teams on this topic went nowhere.

None of the teams (all WorldTour teams) had bothered to address the company’s needs or in fact any form of accountability at all; their strategy consisted mostly of presenting a list of wins and inflated media exposure figures. In the end the sponsor did not enter the sport, although disappointment with the proposal quality was not the only factor.

In case it isn’t obvious, here’s why this approach is a dying breed. A list of wins is like past stock market performances – in no way a guarantee of what the future will bring. Banking on winning instead of providing value independent of racing success is a risky strategy.

The way media exposure figures are used is possibly even worse. You definitely need some figures to show how much the brand will show up, but the pompous conclusions teams often present are off-putting to most sponsor staff with any form of common sense.

Let’s take a step back: media exposure figures are basically calculated by measuring how often the logo is visible and calculating the costs of buying an ad for the same duration or in the same media. Then a discount factor is applied, since having a logo visible is not quite the same as having your fully-controlled message appear.

Instead of this approach, some agencies calculate how many thousands of people are reached across all media and then attach a cost-per-thousand (cpm) to it. Both methods can work, it all depends on how conscientiously you follow through.

At Cervélo TestTeam, we once contacted one of the companies specializing in calculating media exposure. When they started the process, one of the first questions they asked was if we wanted them to calculate with a cpm of $10 or $1. I assumed it was their expertise to figure out what was the right number. Of course, if you ask me as a team, use $10 so my exposure may appear $200 million instead of $20 million.

A similar situation occurs with the other method where a discount is applied to regular ad costs. How big should the discount be, how do you calculate the effectiveness of a logo on a sweaty rider versus your full brand message in a commercial shot with a well-coifed George Clooney?

Note that some factors can make the sweaty rider MORE appealing than Clooney. Although you definitely won’t get the same product message across, the excitement that cycling brings can’t really be replicated in a commercial. As well, a cycling sponsorship may be able to reach people you can’t reach through commercials, because people are trained to tune those out.

You see time and again that name recognition sky-rockets when sponsors enter cycling; within a few years everybody knew CSC, Fassa Bortolo, ONCE, Astana, Katusha, Europcar and soon Belkin. Yet what these companies exactly do is tougher to get across on a shirt, and requires supporting actions. A team can really help with that (and this was the concept I proposed to the large multinational last year). Unfortunately, most teams don’t see that as their concern, they’d rather focus on winning a bike race.

Back to the exposure numbers, it should be clear they can be anything you want them to be, and while it is logical they end up on the high side if a team commissions them, not even a sponsor can get an accurate number if they wanted to.

But it gets worse. Let’s take the Repucom report about the state of global cycling. The main number looks great: WorldTour teams create an average of $88.4 million in exposure. As we saw before, there is a discount factor already applied, and although Repucom won’t share the full methodology freely, they will when you are a client and from what I have seen, it’s a reasonable approach.

That said, there is no point in paying the full $88.4 million for that exposure, companies would want a very significant discount on that amount.

But let’s dig a bit deeper. The Repucom report also states that Team Sky generated $556 million in exposure. Not a surprise given their dominant 2012 season. But if the average of all 18 teams is $88.4 million and Team Sky generated $556 million, then the other 17 teams only averaged $60.9 million. That’s 30% less than the average quoted with Team Sky included.

$60.9 million is a much more realistic number to work with. While sponsors would no doubt like to experience a “Sky year” during their sponsorship, they certainly won’t count on it and won’t be willing to pay for it in advance.

Next up is geography. Given the importance of the Tour de France in the total annual exposure, you won’t be shocked to learn that almost 30% of TV exposure is in France. That’s great if France is an important market for you, but if it is not, that means those 30% of your exposure are a write-off.

This obviously applies to other countries as well, meaning the overall exposure is not that relevant to sponsors. Only exposure in countries they are active in or plan to be matters.

Given that most title sponsors are global brands, this effect may be small, but even if you are active in France, you may not have “use” for $20 million in advertising there.

Finally there are the demographics. If all cycling spectators are 40 years or younger and you sell hearing aids, maybe none of that $60 million in exposure is useful to you. Likewise, when Lotto had a co-sponsor that sold pregnancy tests, not every TV viewer was a potential customer. Just like with any other advertising, demographics matter.

As in the case of the geography, the desired demographics depend on the sponsor, not the team. Therefore the “team exposure” numbers are not very relevant; it’s about the cross-section between the team’s exposure and the sponsor’s potential customer base. The bottom line is that to successfully attract and keep sponsors, teams should focus on what sponsors need rather than on what their standard offerings are.

Sponsorship 101 – for teams

  • Teams should consider working with an agency or multiple agencies if you don’t want to be beholden to luck. Yes, they charge a fee, but 90% of a large sum is better than 100% of nothing.
  • Teams should find out what sponsors need. A pitch is as much about asking that as it is about presenting yourself.
  • Presenting “best case” media exposure figures may work with unsophisticated sponsors, but for most it will be a turn-off. Be realistic.
  • “Winning” may work for the egos of some CEOs or for sugar-daddy sponsors. But for most sponsors it will be a means to an end. And betting on winning to deliver value is a dangerous proposition; there may be lower-risk methods.
  • Brand exposure is a given, and cycling is a great tool to generate name recognition. Don’t dwell on it; instead focus on what else you can do for the sponsor.
  • Beware the “law of the shitty click-throughs”. This says that a new approach attracts a lot of attention and therefore is very effective at the start, but the numbers worsen over time. So you have to keep re-inventing what a team offers sponsors.
  • Don’t overcharge. Of course it’s great to get a more money for a sponsorship than it’s worth, but eventually the sponsor will figure it out (either because they hear from other teams or because their metrics will show poor value) and then you’ll lose them. Give them fair value for a fair price and they may stick around.
  • Be honest. The amount of empty promises and anti-doping nonsense teams spout in sponsor presentations is nuts. Remember that some of these sponsors may have advisors who are quite well positioned in the sport and who can shoot holes in your statements. You lose your credibility, you lose your sponsor.
  • Treat your sponsors – all of them – properly. Most teams don’t have a professional department for this, but they should. Somebody with a small budget to keep everybody happy. Although it is nice to hear, it also makes me cringe when ex-sponsors from the Cervélo TestTeam tell me that was still their favorite team. In my opinion, the way we treated sponsors should have been the standard, not the exception.

Sponsorship 101 – for sponsors

  • If you’re spending millions of dollars on a sponsorship, get proper advice. I see too many sponsors with a lack of understanding of the sport negotiating with the wrong team or severely overpaying for what they get. You don’t need to pay 5 million Euro or anywhere near it for a second title sponsorship, no matter how much logo exposure you get. Get advice, you will save that money tenfold when you sign the final deal.
  • I also see companies relying on one advisor who they happened to know but who knows little about pro cycling. It is really astounding to me how big companies often rely on questionable advice. This sport loses a lot of sponsors to middle-man hacks. Check some references.
  • It’s all in the details. Again at the Cervélo TestTeam, the jersey was clean yet it provided exposure to the sponsors way beyond the average. It was also the best-selling jersey in the peloton, providing additional exposure every time somebody put it on. Even now that Cervélo has stopped the team and is merely a product sponsor, this focus continues to pay dividends. It’s not a coincidence that according to the Repucom report, Cervélo received more exposure from sponsoring Team Garmin-Sharp than either of those two title sponsors.

Finally, some advice to teams and sponsors alike: Find an innovative concept. If you sponsor a team the same way as everybody else, you’ll get the same exposure. To super-charge that exposure, try something new. When we started the Cervélo TestTeam, we were the first bike company-run team in a long time. We also focused on Fan access and product development instead of on winning. Even in the four months before the team started riding, the exposure the team received was way beyond even the biggest-budget teams. And this makes total sense; people are attracted to new stories, not to the same old stuff. Now more and more bike companies follow this route, but as the law of shitty click-throughs predicts, the returns will lessen.

Of course it’s not that easy to create a new concept, but it isn’t rocket science either. Over the years I’ve developed several concepts, some focused on B2C companies and others for B2B (an area for which cycling sponsorship is often neglected but potentially very lucrative). Most of them have never been released but that’s the way teams should work too: create a library of  concepts, waiting for the right sponsor to appear.

Important notice for email subscribers

October 30, 2013

Until now, you could receive my blog automatically by email two ways:

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I am stopping with Feedblitz at the end of November, so if you get it that way and want to continue to get it automatically, just enter your email at the top left box on my blog page and you’ll get it through the Worldpress service.

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Thanks for reading,



September 27, 2013

Cookson is president of the UCI. Wow. Just wow.

Now the real work begins. Can he do it? He may not be the flashiest guy on the planet, but that’s not what the sport needs right now either. It needs painstakingly thorough work, cleaning up the UCI organization, cleaning up the constitution, figuring out how to promote all aspects of cycling, not just men’s road racing.

Most of all, it requires listening to all those people who haven’t been heard in a long time. It means speaking with the great people who used to work at the UCI but left because they couldn’t stand the atmosphere. Because that’s the truly poisonous part of incompetent leadership, the organization below filters out the good people and retains the garbage.

This is not to say that there haven’t been brave people who have hung on for dear life at the UCI – there have been – but let’s hope that the hopelessly incompetent bunch around McQuaid, including Verbruggen, Verbiest, Strebel and many others, will finally leave this sport alone.

Good Luck Brian.

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