This was a fascinating opinion piece for a number of reasons. As well as giving an insight into what the team was trying to achieve, it also laid out a framework for other teams keen on promoting women’s cycle racing, including realistic expenditure and what could hopefully be gained in return.
Almost exactly 2 years ago, Nick Hussey and myself put something together about the cost of running a successful women’s cycling team. I know the word “successful” can mean a multitude of things, like wins, podiums, stability, media return etc, but with the Women’s World Tour now seeming like it will be a reality in 2017, with the qualifying events commencing in 2016, I guess we can put another item in the list of success: Being a Women’s World Tour Team. So with that in mind, and with our first season as a professional team almost behind us, what are the costs of running a team, and what seem to be the barriers to entry for new and potential sponsors?
2016 is the Olympic year and it seems to be the popular misconception that teams flourish in Olympic year; my experience is quite the opposite. Certainly post the 2008 games, I’ve noticed a huge trend that marketing budgets go to individual medal contenders for the upcoming games. This leaves teams hanging on for survival, and it has to be said pretty frustrated. Matrix Fitness has a couple of genuine medal contenders in the rider roster, but opening up boardroom doors is, seemingly, harder than ever.
With 6 to 10 weeks left to add significant sponsors to a team before registration deadlines, it’s always a stressful time for team owners. It’s also a frustrating time for many riders as they wait for teams to confirm budgets ahead of issuing contracts. But the WWT will have effect on things, and those changes will happen in 2016, one year ahead of the introduction of the actual WWT itself. Working on many assumptions to fill the gaps, teams need to be in the top 20-ranked team in January 2016 to gain a guaranteed entry to the major races. So that’s goal one for us for 2016, the bigger goal being entry to the WWT in 2017. To do that, we need to sign a team of riders with UCI points significant enough to help us achieve that while keeping the right balance of riders, personalities, maintaining continuity if possible, and balancing rider ambitions. Of course, there are 30 plus other teams looking to do the same thing.
The bigger goal mentioned above would be to win points in the newly appointed WWT events. Now, the big assumption here is going to be which races are WWT events, and also the assumption entry to the WWT will be based on points accrued. We know some events, but not others. So any early rider signings have to be based on trying to score points in events that we aren’t sure of the terrain, timing on the calendar, etc etc. So that’s a small item to provide a minor headache. That’s not an issue for the biggest teams, with huge rosters of riders coving every eventuality, but to have a successful WWT, we need more than 8 teams. We need competition for places and many more teams with ambitions of reaching the WWT. Obviously the renewed focus of the WWT to provide a media return is going to help many teams and provide a real incentive to reach to the top ranked division. The WWT is also going to give us a clear pathway of divisions of team – Club/Amateur, Continental, WWT. This is going to help everyone understand the sport better.
So more big events, more UCI/WWT points, and bigger ambitions come at a cost. But when we wrote about the costs of running a team two years ago, Nick Hussey of Vulpine said, “It is exceptional, almost embarrassingly good value. Cycling as a whole is booming. Everyone wants to be involved. Women’s racing offers immense value on many levels for a potential sponsor.” This hasn’t changed, and the introduction of the WWT only increases the exceptional good value of the sport.
So how have the numbers change:
£350,000 – Total Team Budget Goal (£250,000 in 2013)
This is the total budget to establish/maintain a high-level professional team given the new WWT. By high level you would be looking at a ranking of between 10th and 20th in the World, maybe higher depending on the time available to sign riders (There is a huge benefit to having confirmed sponsorship known in advance of deadlines). Remember a top 15 ranking would guarantee the team entry to every WWT event (One day races, top 20, and Stage races, top 15). Given these events include Tour of Flanders, Fleche Wallonne, La Course, Tour of Italy, Tour of Britain (All assumed but widely spoken about), the value is clear to see. These are the biggest events in the world.
As per 2013, you can still take on up to 2 named partners, and these companies actually become the name of the team. This amount creates a 12 to 14 rider team that can field its best team (Generally 6 riders) for specific events, whether it’s the London Nocturne, or the Tour of Britain.
The sponsors can expect signed jerseys, team cars splashed with their logo, kit in their colours, VIP packages, riding in the team car, photo shoot at your office with the team. As Nick confirmed in 2013, it doesn’t quite get a huge Death Star style team bus though, although that wouldn’t be too far off.
£100,000 – Co-Title Sponsor
On it’s own this is enough to create a non-professional team feeding the top ranked teams with developing riders. But this amount would make a company a co-title sponsor of a professional team. You’re company name would part of the teams name, giving you all of the benefits seen above.
This could be the difference between being able to provide a minimum salary to riders meaning they can concentrate completely on racing, and put a team up to 5 years ahead of the planned introduction of a minimum salary across the board officially by the UCI.
“Lashings of value for sponsors”, but not quite the all bells and whistles big time super-team of the £250,000 package.
£25,000 to £50,000 (Depending on Return points and future options) – Key Partnership
This figure would allow a company to feature prominently on the team race clothing, vehicles, and also take on ride Ambassador who provides specific return to that company.
As well as customized return for each company, standard points of return such as corporate days with the team including rides with the team from your company HQ, full access to the team launch and use of the team at your trade shows or events.
£15,000 (Up to 10 partnerships exist per season) – Provision of a rider Ambassador.
Corporate days with the rider at leading events. Corporate logo on the team jersey and vehicles.
Don’t forget, teams need products. These partnerships are vital for team, from bikes to cars, to embrocation. It’s a fantastic way for a new company to become involved with top level racing, and also an opportunity to dip your toes in the water of sponsorship. You can find out if it’s for you, your fellow board members, and then move up the sponsorship chain over time.
So, as you can see, entry to the world of women’s professional cycling is still exceptional value. International teams all around the world however are fighting to open boardroom doors in time to make a difference for the 2016 season, and to be honest time is ticking by pretty quickly. It’s Olympic year and with the introduction of the WWT it should be a real year of celebration for the sport. We certainly hope that we can be a part of it.