The world's best ranked women's cycling team for four years running, Boels-Dolmans, has produced a document outlining the profitability of women's cycling as it seeks a new title sponsor for 2021.
The Dutch registered team has already announced that title sponsors - Boels and Dolmans Landscaping - would be withdrawing at the end of the coming season.
Whilst it was notable that the team did not apply for the newly formatted UCI WorldTour women's licence, Team Manager Danny Stam maintains that the team will continue to grow, with an ambition of expanding the roster to 18 riders in 2021.
Publishing a comprehensive handout detailing the growth of women's cycling, he commented: "As team, we are certain that ‘the best is yet to come’," he said, referencing the title of the document.
"We are feeling confident as we now start our search for new title sponsors for the team. Our target is to not only retain our status as the number one women’s cycling team in the world, but also to help further develop the sport of women’s cycling."
More live TV footage, more fans, more female riders
The 'Best is Yet to Come' handout (opens in new tab) from Boels-Dolmans looks at the increase in televised women's racing, increase in viewers, as well as provision from brands and overall interest in cycling from women.
Notably, the team states in its document: "a women’s Tour de France lasting several days and a women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix are being planned" - both events which have been demanded for several years.
Marketing and advertising consultant Frank van den Wall Bake is quoted, saying: “Something new is happening in women’s cycling. The sport is on the way up, just like women’s football. People are talking about it, it is attracting more attention and sponsors want to associate themselves with something new. Women’s cycling is still in its infancy.”
Professional women's cycling now reaches more viewers.
The formation of the Women's World Tour and the UCI's insistence that all included races provide 45 minutes of live broadcasting has led to greater TV coverage - from one broadcaster and one hour of live TV in 2015 to 20 broadcasters and 22 hours in 2018.
Daam van Reeth, Professor of Sports Economics at the University of Leuven is quoted, saying: “Consumption of women’s cycling content is one of the fastest growing segments of broadcast viewership in the sport today, with many women’s events pulling equal or greater numbers than co-broadcast men’s events.”
Van Reeth notes that UK viewing figures of Strade Bianche were almost equal for the men's and women's races, whilst in the Netherlands the Vårgårda classic in Sweden pulled in 86k viewers on Eurosport NL vs the BinckBank Tour which attracted 31k.
Next year, professionalism should be boosted still further, with women's cycling taking on a structure closer to men's via a UCI WorldTour licence programme.
Team's will only be awarded with the licence if they meet certain criteria, including paying a minimum wage. Eight squads applied: Alé Cipollini, Canyon-SRAM, CCC-Liv, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futurescope, Mitchelton Scott, Movistar Women, Sunweb and Trek Segafredo.
The document also took into account overall participation rates. Whilst currently four times as many men ride bikes, numbers are on the up.
Locally, British Cycling announced its goal to get one million more women on bikes by 2020 in 2013, and the latest reported figure was an increase of 723,000 and a 43 per cent increase in female race license holders.
The governing body now boasts 20,000 female members - up from 3,000 in 2008.
Funding a fraction of the cost
Despite rapid growth, women's cycling still lags far behind the men's professional platform.
Boels-Dolmans' document notes that the highest level men's team have a budget averaging 15 to 25 million euros, with Team Ineos' 40 million plus sparking budget cap discussions.
Comparatively, the team notes that women's World Tour squads are operating at the highest level on between 1.7 and 2.5 million euros.
Commenting on return on investment for the current sponsors, Stam comments: "Boels Rental and Dolmans Landscaping stress the fact that they have achieved a huge amount for what in international top-level sport terms is a relatively low sponsorship sum.
"Women’s cycling is one of the few global sports where you can currently still acquire the absolute best in the world for this amount of money."
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Cycling Weekly's Digital Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.
When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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