Is Red Bull making a big move into pro cycling?

Austrian energy drinks brand is looking to acquire a controlling interest in Bora-Hansgrohe

Anton Palzer Bora-Hansgrohe
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Red Bull appears to be making a bigger foray into the world of professional cycling, with the Austrian drinks company seeking to acquire a controlling stake of Bora-Hansgrohe.

The two entities already have links, with Red Bull sponsoring the team's junior scouting program, Red Bull Junior Brothers, last year, and with a Bora rider - Anton Palzer - being individually sponsored by the brand.

Spotted by X user @faustonef, an announcement this week on Austria's Federal Competition Authority (FCA) made the idea of the merger public.

The idea floated is an "indirect acquisition of a controlling interests of 51% in RD pro cycling GmbH & Co KG and RD Beteiligungs GmbH (owner of the professional road cycling team BORA-hansgrohe), both Germany, by Red Bull GmbH, Austria". RD Pro Cycling GmbH & Co. KG is the company behind Bora, owned and run by Ralph Denk.

According FCA rules, people can lodge objections up until the 26 January. It is not known whether the team would cease as Bora-Hansgrohe, and become Red Bull branded.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Bora spokesman said: "Red Bull is planning to expand its involvement in road cycling and is aiming for a partnership with BORA - hansgrohe. By becoming a partner in Team Manager Ralph Denk's operating company, Red Bull strives to complement the team's portfolio of existing long-term main sponsors, who will remain on a long-term basis. The planned joint venture has been notified to the relevant antitrust authority. 

"We ask for your understanding that we will not comment further on the planned joint venture, as we do not wish to anticipate the ongoing review by the Austrian antitrust authority."

It is far from Red Bull's first move into cycling, but it would be the biggest statement that the energy drinks giant has made in road cycling to date. On the road, Red Bull individually sponsor Anton Palzer and Visma-Lease A Bike's Wout van Aert, meaning they have special permission to wear differently branded helmets. 

Van Aert is the face of an advertising campaign for the drinks in his native Belgium, which was helped by his bird's wings celebration when he won stage four of the 2022 Tour de France - Red Bull "gives you wings", you see.

Tom Pidcock is also a Red Bull athlete, but this is limited to his activities in cyclo-cross and mountain biking. The brand has a long history of mountain bike sponsorship, being the title sponsor of the Red Bull Rampage, and also has deals with riders like Evie Richards.

Owning a controlling stake in a pro cycling team is a step up, however, and could see the budget of the German team grow; the signing of Primož Roglič confirmed the idea that the squad was seeking to make waves at the Tour this summer, but the team's aims in the Classics and in sprinting might have been limited as a result. An injection of investment would help Bora tackle the whole calendar.

Red Bull is a familiar name in other sports, behind the most successful Formula One team of the moment, the car driven by multiple world champion Max Verstappen, but also a second team, Scuderia AlphaTauri. They also sponsor a MotoGP team.

In football, they own Red Bull Salzburg, Austria's most successful football club of the 21st century, the New York Red Bulls, and are behind RB Leipzig, the current holders of the DFB-Pokal, the German cup.

The brand is known for its sponsorship of extreme sports as well, whether that is cliff diving, flying, and skateboarding. 

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