How Pro Cycling Teams Can Get Back On Solid Financial Footing

06.17.2009 | 12:26 pm

A Note from Fatty: After yesterday’s post, Ben from Arriva contacted me saying they’d like to donate 5 sets of the Arriva headphones for me to give away in a contest to raise money for Team Fatty’s LiveStrong Challenge. Very cool! The contest will be tomorrow and will be a 1-day raffle, so be certain to check in for tomorrow’s post.

Another Note from Fatty: My friend — and Team Fatty member — Adam is doing a Princeton Tec Bike Light giveaway to raise money. Learn how you can win a very nice light setup for your bike here.

You know, every time I see Levi Leipheimer or Lance Armstrong ride in their signature turquoise, navy blue, lemon-yellow and white Astana jerseys with the impossible-to-decipher glyph on the chest — is that a bird carrying a sun? — I can’t help but think to myself, “You know, some day I think I’d really like to go visit Kazakhstan, or perhaps, should I be given the opportunity, purchase some Kazakh-produced consummables. Such as oil. Or perhaps wool.”

Similarly, when I see Robby McEwen execute a perfect sprint while sporting his Silence-Lotto kit, I can’t help but want to burn through a few bucks on state-sponsored gambling. But strangely enough, I really want to do so quietly.

And when I see someone from AG2R go by, I always think to myself, “Hey! Someday I should find out what AG2R means!”

Team Columbia-High Road makes me want to visit Columbia. Using a high road.

You see what I’m getting at here? The current pro cycling team sponsors are going about things all wrong, and pro teams are going after the wrong kind of sponsors. As a result, sponsors are defecting and teams aren’t getting paid.

Luckily for everyone, I am here to help.

Recommendations for Sponsors

In days of yore (specifically, 1820 – 1948), it was enough for a company to sponsor a cycling team simply to get name recognition. To proclaim to the world, “A company named ‘Milram’ exists!” And eventually, people would find out that ‘Milram’ makes dairy products, and is not, as one would first suppose, “Marlin” spelled backward, and wrong.

Since then, a few things have changed. Like TV has been invented. And other stuff, too, like cheese in an aerosol can, although that is not germane to this conversation. In any case, most people now recognize that it is a good idea to not just announce your existence, but to also proclaim what it is you do, and maybe even get specific about a particular product or service you would like to emphasize at the moment.

Let’s consider a few examples of companies that might be good pro team sponsor candidates, and how they might get good use out of their marketing dollars.

Hersheys: Even as a child, I hated parades. Floats did not interest me. Marching bands grated on me. Horses pooping on the street grossed me out. The only thing I liked about parades was all the free candy tossed my way. That I could get behind. Hersheys should sponsor a team, with their jersey design in Hersheys brown, and their helmets specially shaped to look like the iconic Hersheys Kiss. And then — as part of the sponsorship contract — riders should be required to carry a couple of bags full of Hersheys Kisses in all their training rides and races, which they would toss by the handsful out to the crowds. Oh, and also they should start making better-tasting chocolate, or when Team Hersheys races in Europe, the crowds will throw the chocolate right back at them.

Ikea: If Ikea sponsored a team, they should first make a bike that ships in a flat box, and can be assembled and maintained using nothing but a hammer and a hex wrench, as long as you follow the instructions exactly. And they should call the bike “Mjolk” or “Bladdo” or something like that. Oh, and the team could make a point of eating Swedish Fish as their main on-bike food.

Playgirl Magazine: This one’s easy. No team jersey, just shorts. And cyclists must be at least 80% as good looking as Cipollini. Maybe they could get the Assos guy to ride for them.

Fiber One: Every cyclist knows the value of taking a good dump before an important ride. Seriously, I cannot think of a better sponsoring team product tie-in than this one. The focus for the members of this team would be a little bit different than other teams. Which is to say, Team Fiber One members would be required to look relaxed and happy wherever they go, whether on a training ride or in the middle of a bunch sprint.

Microsoft / Apple: These two companies should each sponsor teams, and then ignore every other racer, instead focusing on constantly attacking each other. Microsoft bikes and kits should be incredibly versatile and useful, but require advanced degrees to get beyond basic functionality. Apple bikes would be fixed-gear and stamped from a single piece of aluminum, because that would look simple and elegant.

And they would cost $40,000.

Once they see the inevitable success of this model, other companies would scramble to climb aboard the pro cycling sponsorship bandwagon. NBC could have its Fall lineup — or a Very Special Episode of Chuck — advertised on jerseys. Martha Stewart could have bric-a-brac hot-glued onto bikes and helmets, as well as color-coordinated seasonal outfits to die for.

Sony could have a team that uses bike technology similar to — but intentionally incompatible with — every other team. Donald Trump could have a team that does whatever he wants, regardless of whether it makes any sense whatsoever.

And Oprah and I could co-launch a pro version of Team Fat Cyclist.


  1. Comment by frilly | 06.17.2009 | 12:46 pm

    Fatty, I think Trump may have gotten trumped–Rock Racing.


  2. Comment by Mike Roadie | 06.17.2009 | 12:46 pm

    I am really surprised we don’t see more of that. Everywhere you look it’s some building or arena or event sponsored by someone…….


  3. Comment by Fattier | 06.17.2009 | 12:48 pm

    Robbie rides for Katusha now…which definitely could have been the butt of a funny joke about Russia…

  4. Comment by sasha | 06.17.2009 | 12:50 pm

    there is a US Jelly Belly team that has a team car that throws out candy. And their jerseys have jelly beans all over them. And, of course, the Sport Beans are really just regular jelly beans anyway, with a tenuous (at best) connection to sports. So if they only had jelly-bean-looking helmets, they’d pretty much match your Hersheys idea.

  5. Comment by MikeonHisBike | 06.17.2009 | 12:51 pm

    What about Team Preparation H. I’ll let your imagination run wild with that one.

  6. Comment by Jayson | 06.17.2009 | 12:52 pm

    And the ikea support team must drive a yellow VW bug stacked with flat boxed bikes and wheels.

  7. Comment by getinlost | 06.17.2009 | 12:54 pm

    Why is Band-Aid not part of Team OUCH?

  8. Comment by Jason Crane | 06.17.2009 | 1:00 pm

    And of course the Linux bikes would be fast and unbreakable, but they would all be hidden in an inaccessible cave somewhere in the French countryside. Or perhaps just locked in a shed behind Linus Torvalds’ house.



  9. Comment by Linda | 06.17.2009 | 1:29 pm

    I’d hate to see what Team Baby Wipes would look like.

  10. Comment by dug | 06.17.2009 | 2:04 pm

    “Oh, and also they should start making better-tasting chocolate, or when Team Hersheys races in Europe, the crowds will throw the chocolate right back at them.”

    you realize that hersheys owns reeses, right? and that reeses is a national treasure. so don’t get too down on hersheys.

  11. Comment by Anonymous | 06.17.2009 | 2:08 pm

    this could really take a turn for the worse as I got myself thinking about the helmets for Team Trojan or Team Extenze (okay FC you started it with visions of silver foil kiss shaped helmets)

    Anyway, it is surprising that more “green” companies doen’t sponsor pro cycling teams but I suppose until the taint of doping can be overcome it may not be such a good tie-in.

    Great post though, got me thinking on several diverse/perverse levels…

  12. Comment by cyclostu | 06.17.2009 | 2:11 pm

    Team “Luxury Body” presented by Playgirl Magazine. I like it. Although it seems like Assos should be mentioned in the name with Playgirl… I’m just sayin’

  13. Comment by axel in texas | 06.17.2009 | 2:17 pm

    team ‘canadian online pharmacy’ or maybe team ‘angen’ will be in the news weekly for doping cases featuring their products. A win and a disqualification afterwards would be great advertising. It does require a large team to keep a presence throughout the whole season.

  14. Comment by mikE | 06.17.2009 | 2:19 pm

    Team Microsoft bikes would start at $40,000 a peice, and in their first year they’d be the size of a house, but every year the bikes would get smaller and cheaper until they weighed next to nothing and only cost $249, but they’d still crash twice a day.

    Speaking of jrseys, how or when can I order a new FatCyclist jersey?

  15. Comment by Todd Olson | 06.17.2009 | 2:24 pm

    Isn’t there a Team Bissell? What is their team motto – “We Suck”? And sorry to inform you but Chuck was cancelled – so the episode would be VERY special indeed (I make this announcement without checking to see if Chuck was rescued from the gallows.)

    WIN Susan!

  16. Comment by axel in texas | 06.17.2009 | 2:26 pm

    team ‘columbia’ is trying to sell good looking sportswear, yet their jerseys are so ugly. If they only would wear real columbia clothing they’d look most stylish and they could carry more waterbottles in the many practical pockets that columbia clothing has.
    team ‘garmin’ riders could show of their gps products better if they found a shortcut to the finish line. Seems like the rules are getting in the way of good advertising.

  17. Comment by Jenny-Jenny | 06.17.2009 | 2:44 pm

    I think Band-aid should just make their own team and maybe they would toss out all different shapes and sizes of bandaids.

  18. Comment by Weiland | 06.17.2009 | 2:48 pm

    Team Apple would not require mechanics and they would never crash. Whereas Team Microsoft riders would unexpectedly crash anywhere on the course but most likely within the last 100K of the race and their riders would be prone to viruses.

  19. Comment by Weiland | 06.17.2009 | 2:54 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you get a call from Ophrah’s “people”, I mean you mention a product and voila it shows up at your door step. Hopefully that doesn’t mean Oprah will be coming to Alpine for an extended stay…

  20. Comment by e | 06.17.2009 | 3:40 pm


  21. Comment by bikemike | 06.17.2009 | 3:43 pm

    man, i don’t even want to see what playgirl throws out but i’m all for getting a new iphone tossed my way.

    would love to see 7-eleven come back. they have awesome brownies and m&m cookies. plus, they also had the “BEST” paint scheme “EVER” on their bikes (oh, i will challenge anyone on this).

  22. Comment by Dave in Lehi | 06.17.2009 | 4:44 pm

    Are you announcing something with Oprah? Seems like a forshadowed ending, like Back to the Future I and II.

  23. Comment by Mark W | 06.17.2009 | 5:55 pm

    The Ikea team should have swedish meatballs for their meals.

    Chuck is *not* canceled. They were be airing after the Winter Olympics. Speaking of Chuck, captain Awesome is a roadie and there were scenes with him on a bike. Any product placement of a cycling team is possible.

  24. Comment by Dr. Lame-ler | 06.17.2009 | 6:26 pm

    I apologize in advance.

    The American Bar Association could have a team of lawyers who would ride the Tour seeking every opportunity to file daily lawsuits for injuries or product defects.

    Their kit?

    Briefs, of course.

  25. Comment by Kathleen | 06.17.2009 | 7:03 pm

    I would so be all over the Hershey’s team – better yet, make it a Valrhona team – their chocolate rocks!

  26. Comment by Nick | 06.17.2009 | 7:14 pm

    I propose “Team ADA-Crest” (American Dental Association). They’ll ride Serottas and use a not-yet-developed version of Whitestrips that provides fuel and electrolytes while whitening teeth and freshening breath. Gels will be supplied in packages that look like travel sized toothpaste. Their water bottles will be clear and the water will be dyed the same blue as Crest Pro Health mouthwash. The disk wheels on their TT bikes will be painted to look like the head of a Spin Brush. The only catch is they couldn’t have any Brits on the team. . . for obvious reasons

  27. Comment by MOCougFan | 06.17.2009 | 7:37 pm

    That Oprah joke killed. Hellarious.

  28. Comment by Gnat! | 06.17.2009 | 8:39 pm

    Team Columbia missed out on a huge opportunity by not making their kits khaki colored with tons of pockets and zip-off legwarmers.

  29. Comment by Jakub | 06.17.2009 | 8:55 pm

    That’s a pretty American PoV you bring in there. Of course you don’t care about Kazakh national corps or European banks. Neither did Europeans care about “US Postal”.

    Pretty much everyone watching can relate to Garmin or Columbia though.

    I assert that you completely missed the comedic arc (oh yes, my comedy has arcs) in your rush to label me with an American PoV. Which is a pretty European thing to do (See what I did there?).

    Let’s break this sucker down.

    The whole post is not about whether I already know and / or care about what the sponsoring organization does. Instead, it posits that the job of the team is to advertise the product / organization instead of merely proclaim its existence. It then punches a whole in that idea by using ridiculous examples for unlikely sponsors. Thus, the piece moves from seeming like actual criticism to satire to absurdism. This comedy style is not typically thought of as American, by the way. It is, as a matter of fact, most popular in Estonia. And believe me, I am HUGE in Estonia.

    I’m glad I could clear that up for you. I’m sure you now find this post hilarious. – FC

  30. Comment by Tim E | 06.17.2009 | 9:02 pm

    Laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. Team IKEA, indeed!

    WIN Susan!

  31. Comment by tim | 06.17.2009 | 11:16 pm

    Fatty here are some other sure-fire teams:

    Team Office Depot- when things get tough they would just hit the easy button. This would work well until the UCI banned easy buttons, like they banned recumbents back in the 1930’s.

    Team Prison Break- These highly motivated riders would never finish a race, but they would ride crazy fast until they left team Bike Police at least 10 minutes back. They would ride for free, but never been seen again.

    Team Wendy’s- This woman’s team would all sport pig-tails and they would refuel during rides with a frosty.

    Team Graham Watson- They would never win, but they would look great in those high mountain stages with the snow capped peaks in the background.

    Team GEICO- They spend so much on marketing I can’t believe they don’d sponsor a cycling team. The riders would get discounts on car insurance and get to hang with Warren Buffett.

    Team Nationwide- Life comes at you fast and so do these riders. They would have to be paid a premium to show up the races however. They would cancel your contract if you have two crashes.

    Team Rans- After being losing in court, the UCI would be forced to accept recumbents. They would win every flat event, and use company made aircraft to see where the other riders were. Old guys with beards would suddenly not only be cool, but fashion icons. Jersey’s with the pockets on the front, and all sorts of bike mirrors would be all the rage.

    Team UAW- They would have twice the riders of normal teams, each doing about 1/2 they work you would expect. When the team fails due to umcompetitive wages and results, the current administration would mandate they win 80% of the time and they would use the prize money in part to make political donations so next year they could win 90% of the races by decree. Knowing they could not win, the other racers would lose motivation and soon be riding for team Food Stamps, team Section 8, or Team Medicaid. These teams have ever growing rosters and no one is ever forced out.

  32. Comment by RachelGio | 06.18.2009 | 6:59 am

    Happy Birthday, Fatty!!!!

  33. Comment by Jonnie J | 06.18.2009 | 10:13 am

    Great post Fatty! I am working from home today and read your post to my wife…we were both cracking up reading it.

  34. Comment by Nicole | 06.18.2009 | 12:22 pm

    I hereby volunteer for tim’s Team Wendy’s. Where do I pick up my new kit?

  35. Comment by Charisa | 06.19.2009 | 12:01 pm

    Um yah, Hershey’s chocolate in Europe would NOT go over well :)

  36. Comment by Jakub | 06.19.2009 | 8:19 pm

    No need to get offended Fatty. I got your sense of humour. Microsoft vs. Apple was good, albeit with the values you attributed to Microsoft you should have probably named the team FSF.

    Regards to you and yours. Off to bed for me to get up for the Sears cancer ride up here in Ontario, Canada.

  37. Comment by Esther L | 06.20.2009 | 8:11 pm

    There was a team Chocolade Jacques, based in Belgium.
    I thought the name wasn’t large enough on the team kit.

    Perhaps M&M/Mars could be encouraged to sponsor a bike team? That’s the maker of Dove bars.

    Maybe Lindt and Toblerone could jointly sponsor a team?

    How about Team Exxon/Mobil? They’ve got enough profit to handle bike team expenses. And they would have it in for Liquigas!


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