By Nigel Wynn
Long-term sponsorship deals in professional cycling are hard to come by, with teams and events often involved in searches for new title sponsors every few years to ensure their continued existence.
Running a top-level cycling team is an expensive business, and many major companies will only sponsor a team for a few years before dropping out. Teams and race organisers are often not equipped to spend months searching for a new title sponsor, and we have seen the demise of some squads simply because they couldn't find a backer.
Perhaps there is much more that could be done to make pro cycling an attractive proposition for major companies? We recently asked Cycling Weekly readers for ideas on how they would attract and keep big sponsors into the sport, and here are a selection of the answers we received...
Agree, or disagree with the ideas here? Got one of your own? Let us know in the comment box below.
NB: Cycling Weekly does not necessarily endorse any of these suggestions, particularly the one about boxing.
1. Dedicated bike racing TV channel
A dedicated cycling channel showing the wide variety of options in cycling instead of just the Tour de France. On-board camera footage was great to see being used more last season as it gives a real sense of drama by showing how much skill is involved in keeping safe in a big bunch. Teams need to take a more pro-active role in involving their fans like Orica-GreenEdge with their Back Stage Pass videos during events as it goes behind the scenes and shows the guys off the bike too.
2. End doping
Not have athletes getting caught for doping. Sponsors would like that. The UCI has no credibility any more. Cycling just doesn't fit for the tiny attention span of American sports fans – you only get to see a few seconds of a race when the peloton goes by, then nothing. Most fans have no idea how hard pro cycling is.
3. Shorter and faster
Making it more of a spectator sport. Fans at the moment will like longer stages and races, but for someone not into cycling, it's just plain boring. If there were more shorter, faster, more aggressive races then people would be attracted to it more – it would be way more exciting!
4. Tour of America
More big-time races in the USA, and a 'Tour of America' with races all over the country.
5. Think bigger
You’ve got to think about it from a sponsor’s perspective: what do they get from it? It's either the number of eyeballs watching or what can they do with the event, riders, teams for promotion beyond the racing. More TV exposure would help but leveraging digital media is essential. Can't see that being done by anyone well. Also, need to create big events that will attract media coverage and people attending. Think central London, Paris, etc – not just a race but opportunities to meet the teams, etc.
6. Even out the teams
Attempt to curtail the dominance of super teams. We have a system where big budget teams buy up GC hopefuls and use them as whole team super-domestiques, such that we have a handful of teams winning the big races with the smaller budget teams living off scraps. No one's going to want to sponsor a team that only gets the occasional grand tour stage.
7. Names on roads
Paint the streets with sponsors’ names. Cyclists’ jerseys aren't big enough for some advertisers.
8. Everyone likes a punch-up
More boxing. When cyclists hit each other it always gets loads of TV coverage. If we got rid of prologue time trials, and replaced them with boxing matches, the sponsors would pile in.
Watch: Racing news - Dave Brailsford and Rod Eillingworth
9. Audience participation
A wildcard spectator ticket: one lucky member of the crowd is plucked out, given a skin suit and a Pinarello and told to race with the pros. This would highlight just how fast the riders are in comparison to your average person (would be even better with time trialling).
10. Detailed TV race info
Develop on-screen graphics that explain team tactics, echelons, differing riders roles, etc. This may help attract more people into watching = more interest from the public = more interest from companies.
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