I won’t speculate about Belkin specifically but let’s dispel doping for starters as a reason generally for pulling sponsorship. Nothing seems to stop companies wanting to hold the hands of NRL and AFL teams, not even the long list of sexual assaults or this guy weeing into his mouth.
One of the main reasons cycling can’t seem to keep a date is simple – it’s a hard sport for the larger public to engage with. Of course, once they do, they love it. Mick Rogers nailed it recently in an interview with RIDE Cycling Review:
“There’s no way to quantify cycling, that’s why a lot of people find it hard to get a general understanding: it is a black art and I see that people once they get that basic understanding, really love it.”
One day changes will come to cycling’s structure to achieve better engagement, but for now when opportunities do come to provide sponsors maximum exposure, team personnel should not run away from them.
Non fans engage with a sport through its stories. They lap them up; for example the 19 year old Nick Kyrgios from little old Canberra toppling Nadal. But three cycling stories will remain unwritten at this year’s Tour de France, and as a result, I believe the teams involved demonstrate a lack of professionalism and provide yet another example of why this sport can’t attract or keep sponsors.
NetApp Endura rider Scott Thwaites missed out on a TDF berth. Thwaites hails from Burley-in-Wharfedale, West Yorkshire. He gained coverage for his team way back in February with only just a whiff of team selection. This journalist believes Thwaites would get a week’s worth at the Tour:
— Peter Cossins (@petercossins) June 30, 2014
You have probably heard about Garmin Sharp ruling out David Millar due to “sickness.” And his story? He’s the kid who went bad for a bit, repented, became patron saint of anti doping and is riding his last ever Tour, just before the Commonwealth Games in his home land.
Wiggo – again, the stories write themselves for the knighted one. But here’s an example of what Sky gave up. Yes, that is Wiggins receiving applause at Wimbledon this year.
With these guys, it is not a question of choosing a team to win and keep sponsors happy that way. How would selecting Thwaites be a problem for a team just hoping to get in breakaways or maybe pull off a stage win? Wiggo is in great form and Millar said he’d be OK in time.
Such stories create buzz which results in cameras and fans keenly seeking these guys out at stage starts or on the roadsides, all with their sponsors’ logos showing. Maybe NetApp for example, is not confident Thwaites could make it past the first week. But after that exposure, it doesn’t matter – the job is done.
While we all now know why Orica GreenEdge (OGE) did not select Daryl Impey, Matt White still had other riders to choose from when he went with Simon Yates. But White probably gets it. Yates, the up and coming English rider, is sure to create amazing exposure for OGE’s sponsors and attract a new raft of fans. If he pulls out a week later, again, job done.
When it comes to the business of professional cycling, wasting these golden opportunities to engage with a larger audience is simply unprofessional.
What do you think? If you were involved in pro cycling, what would you do if you had the chance? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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