SBJ/January 2-8, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Jerseys of USA Cycling to carry Grape-Nuts cereal logo under new sponsorship deal

USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing, has signed a one-year deal with Post Foods that will place the Grape-Nuts cereal brand logo on all national team and national championship jerseys in 2012.

A source familiar with the deal, which was negotiated by Wasserman Media Group, pegged it in the low six-figure range. The deal includes a right to renew after the 2012 season.

“The jerseys have been pretty clean over the last few years,” said USA Cycling COO Sean Petty. “We’ve had individual sponsors for specific sports, but not one for the [national] championships and national teams that stretches across all of the disciplines.”

USA Cycling oversees professional and amateur competition for road, track, BMX, cyclocross and mountain bike racing, and holds 17 separate national championship events each year. It has 65,500 licensed members. It also oversees junior- and Under-23-level development teams for all five disciplines that compete domestically and overseas.

According to a USA cycling representative, the Grape-Nuts brand will appear on approximately 2,000 jerseys worn by amateur and professional cyclists next year at domestic and international races. The deal includes the world championship events for all five disciplines, but it does not include the Olympic Games, as U.S. Olympic Committee rules prohibit any branding other than manufacturer logos from appearing on apparel.

In addition to the jersey, Grape-Nuts will receive signage and on-site activation space at all 17 national championship events. Matt Wikstrom, vice president for global sales and business development at Wasserman Media Group, said Grape-Nuts will also promote the USA Cycling brand as well as national team athletes on 7 million cereal box covers. The cereal maker and governing body have yet to decide which athletes will appear on the boxes.

“We focused on [USA Cycling’s] membership base, which has been growing steadily over the last few years,” said Wikstrom, who previously negotiated professional cycling team sponsorships for Nissan and RadioShack. “With the 17 events, you also have a really nice national activation footprint.”

Sunny Ekmahachai, senior consumer promotions manager for Post Foods, said Post has never partnered Grape-Nuts with a sports property.

“Now we understand that we need to give a little love to Grape-Nuts,” Ekmahachai said. “It’s a smaller brand, and we felt this platform would help us go after the active sports enthusiast.”

USA Cycling’s previous jersey sponsors have been sport-specific. USA Cycling did not have a jersey sponsor for elite road cycling in 2011, however Coca-Cola, Hampton Inn, United Airlines and information services company EDS previously owned space on the elite road jersey at various times between 1995 and 2010. Professional cycling companies Slipstream Sports and Highroad owned space on the junior and Under-23 development jersey in 2011, but neither will continue in 2012. Southern California-based sports medicine group OUCH has a jersey deal for track cycling that will continue for 2012.

Petty said the governing body wants to add three additional jersey partners for the 2012 season. He said the governing body previously sold partnerships in-house, and signed on with Wasserman Media Group in early 2011 to better position itself for sports sponsorships.

“The last few years we have not been that aggressive in the sponsorship marketplace,” Petty said. “We were more focused on membership, services and the race experience. We developed enough revenue to support our programs, so we’re not reliant on sponsorship dollars, but they will better fund the programs we’re already doing.”
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