Does cycling sponsorship have a brand recognition problem

Does cycling sponsorship have a brand recognition problem

I’m a big fan of professional cycling. I follow all the races. I’ll put down a fifty at the bookies for the big events. I have a water bottle a Movistar rider ditched near Montemboeuf in France in the Tour de Poitou-Charente. Anyone who’s ever taken a Sunday ride with me will know I do not have the speed, stamina, courage downhill, or power uphill – in short, the legs – that the pro peloton is capable of – chapeaux to them – but I have been following the race results, cheering at the roadside, and catching up on YouTube for at least ten years. It’s a serious sport that requires a ton of cash in salaries, transportation, equipment, social media, and it relies on big team organisation. 

But after all that time, do you know I’ve no idea who most of the sponsors are!

I believe that cycling’s sponsors have a brand messaging problem. Sure they splash out caps and toys with their logos emblazoned to all the waiting fans, in fact, the team’s name is the sponsor’s name – not the same in football, for example – but they don’t make a good job of explaining what they do. Maybe I could guess at half of the brands, but for sure I’m not an actual customer. After all these years I have no clue what Jumbo Visma actually is, or does. Trek I get, ’cos I’m a cyclist; Segafredo – no idea. Maybe it’s a national thing and everyone in the Netherlands instinctively knows what CCC stands for, and everyone in Germany has heard of Bora-Hansgrohe. Cofidis anyone? 

It could be I’m just not the target market, their marketing is not aimed at me, but seriously guys, you’re sponsoring a sport whose principal audience, the middle-aged man in lycra, does not know who you are or what you stand for? I am literally your middle of the road customer – until the breakaway streaks into view and I move to one side!

Take the test for yourself, answer these 10 questions:

What does this brand do? Ever seen their product?

  1. QuickStep
  2. Sunweb
  3. Ineos
  4. Dimension Data
  5. Cofidis
  6. Movistar
  7. Katusha Alpicin
  8. Astana
  9. BMC
  10. Mitchelton Scott

What was your score? If like me you’re way low on the recognition score that tells me the brands have a problem.

All it would take would be for the brand to explain a little. Trek – we make bikes. Segafredo – fill in here. Team Ineos – your homes are heated by our oil and gas engineering or something. You can’t just assume I know, that some kind of osmosis is taking place, I’ve been watching for ten years.

This is brand building base camp. You’ve got a brand, probably it’s a good one, you’re sponsoring a world series bike team, your logo is in front of a million fans – how do you tell them who you are? What can you do to show them your products? How can you invite them to contact you? How can you entice them to buy your stuff?

Get your people together and work out how you can reach the audience who are watching the team you are sponsoring. Then the audience will connect the sponsorship to the product.

So I love cycling. I love the sport. I know your brand name. I just don’t know what you do or what you make. You gotta show me the product. Invite me to log on. Start that conversation. Maybe I’ll choose you first, next time I’m buying wood floors, or mobile coverage, or data processing.

If you need some assistance with your branding work, talk to Reg & Co. We are experts at getting the message across.

Stuart Richmond
Stuart Richmond
stuart@regandco.com

Stuart has a wealth of experience working across rightsholders and agencies with some of the world’s biggest brands. At Chelsea FC, Stuart managed the Adidas, Audi and Samsung relationships, building global coaching programs to over 20 countries, as well as managing the 3 weeks, 1st team tour to Asia for club partners.

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