With long-term team sponsors like Oleg Tinkov and Rabobank walking away from cycling recently (albeit for different reasons), you could be forgiven for thinking no one (James Murdoch aside) wants to fund a cycling team any more.
But Alpecin CEO Eduard Doerrenberg has been thrilled by the success he’s reaped from cycling sponsorship since his company partnered with Giant in 2014 and – with his side possessing at least two world-beaters in Tom Dumoulin and John Degenkolb – the German shampoo manufacturer is here to stay.
“Going back into cycling was a clear strategic move,” Doerrenberg told Marketing magazine. “We’re doing it for business, not for pleasure.”
“We were quite convinced that cycling, as many people say, is the new golf and so cycling is a global sport. The Tour de France is the biggest yearly global sports event, so of course riding was the terrific chance to bring the brand into 130 countries with just one activity.
“You can see a clear global trend, specifically in developed countries, where people between 25 and 45 prefer to cycle instead of playing golf.
“That’s mainly driven by the idea that it’s much better for your fitness to cycle than to play golf. Golf takes longer but I think the whole fitness idea, the whole idea of health and being self-responsible, fits perfectly with our encouraging men to take Alpecin early enough not to lose their hair or to lose much less than they would otherwise.”
Giant-Alpecin had a massively successful 2015, with John Degenkolb winning both Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, before Tom Dumoulin almost pulled off the surprise of the year, spending seven days in the overall lead of the Vuelta, only relinquishing the red jersey on the penultimate day.
Doping controversies have seen sponsors like Rabobank abandon the sport in recent years, but for Doerrenberg that had the added benefit of making sponsoring a cycling team much cheaper.
“A big company wouldn’t have done it because the compliance officer would have said ‘no way’,” said Doerrenberg. “We say it’s lovely. It’s a really great sport and it’s coming back.”
He added: “We can perceive long-term strategies and that gives us a big advantage and we have to take that because on other sides we have of course disadvantages due to a lack of scale.”
Alpecin have courted controversy in recent years with their slogan “doping for your hair”, which they dropped for the duration of last year’s Tour de France so as not to distract their riders, but Doerrenberg was clear it was simply a marketing ploy.
“We’re fully against doping in sports [but] we don’t mind doping your hair.”