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Volume 7 No. 149

Marketing and Sponsorship

The loss of its top sponsor puts the future of Team Sky in doubt.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Team Sky’s "future is in doubt after the broadcaster announced it is to bring an end to its involvement in the cycling team," which has been "hugely successful but has seen a succession of controversies," according to Martyn Ziegler of the LONDON TIMES. Next year will be the final year of Sky’s involvement in cycling, "but insiders insist the decision is not connected with recent negative publicity" nor the upcoming General Medical Council hearing involving its former team doctor. The announcement "came as a shock to Team Sky’s riders -- several are on three-year contracts and some up to five years" -- and the move "creates uncertainty about their future with the team unless a new sponsor can come forward with the necessary funding." The cost of running the team is increasing and is up to about £30M ($37.9M) a year. Sky and 21st Century Fox -- which had a minority stake in the team and is also ending its involvement -- have spent about £180M ($228M) since the team was launched in '10, two years after Sky "had started sponsoring British Cycling." Sky was taken over by Comcast in September. Team Sky Chair Graham McWilliam said on Twitter that Comcast is "aware and supportive" of the decision, "but it was taken by Sky" (LONDON TIMES, 12/12).

NOT DONE YET: In London, Sean Ingle reported Team Sky Principal Dave Brailsford "paid tribute to his team and said he hoped that a new sponsor would be found" for the '20 season. However, with Team Sky "comfortably the richest outfit in world cycling," it remains to be seen whether a "viable buyer" can be found. Brailsford: "While Sky will be moving on at the end of next year, the team is open-minded about the future and the potential of working with a new partner, should the right opportunity present itself. ... We aren't finished by any means yet. There is another exciting year of racing ahead of us and we will be doing everything we can to deliver more Team Sky success in 2019" (GUARDIAN, 12/12). The BBC reported McWilliam said that it was "the right time" to bring the broadcaster's involvement with the cycling team to an end and added that it had been "our decision." He said, "It's been a pleasure and a privilege to have been on the journey with Team Sky and British Cycling right from the start. Priority now is to help find new partners to take the team into the future" (BBC, 12/12).

HOLDING OUT HOPE: The BBC reported four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome said that Team Sky will "be doing everything we can" to survive. He said, "I can't predict the future, but this is a really special team. We plan to be together in 2020 if at all possible." Froome added, "We will all be doing everything we can to help make that happen -- in different colors with a new partner, but with the same values, focus and desire to win" (BBC, 12/12).

'BRILLIANT PIECE OF WORK': CYCLING NEWS' Daniel Benson reported Havas Agency Managing Partner Richard Gillis said that Team Sky "created a brilliant sponsorship template but that uncertainly over the current markets, and the negative fallout from doping stories," could all be factors in the team's ability to find a new headline sponsor. He said, "One good thing that they've done is that they've created a template to follow. They showed how you sponsor a major cycling team. That's a playbook a new sponsor could just come in and copy. It's a brilliant piece of work and a real plus. But for the price they're asking, the sponsorship has to break out of the cycling world. The message has to reach more than just cycling fans" (CYCLING NEWS, 12/12).

McLaren will enter the world of professional cycling "in a bid to replace Team Sky as the best in the world," according to Tom Cary of the London TELEGRAPH. In a move "which could shake up the peloton," the Woking-based company announced on Wednesday at a training camp in Croatia that it is entering into a joint-venture partnership with Bahrain-Merida, the team of 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali. Both entities are already Bahraini-owned; McLaren by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, and Bahrain-Merida by Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a member of the nation’s royal family. The partnership, which is being described as "open-ended," will be with McLaren’s Applied Technologies and Marketing & Commercial divisions -- which account for almost 700 staff -- "making Bahrain-Merida at a stroke one of the best funded, and certainly one of the best resourced, teams in the sport" (TELEGRAPH, 12/11). CYCLIST's Joe Robinson reported McLaren's relationship with cycling "does not begin with this new venture." British Cycling and Team Sky worked alongside McLaren's Applied Technologies department in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics while McLaren also partnered with American bike brand Specialized on the development of the S-Works McLaren Venge which was raced by Mark Cavendish at the 2011 Tour de France. McLaren CMO John Allert said, "Racing, technology and human performance are at the heart of everything we do at McLaren. Cycling is something we have been involved with in the past and have been looking at entering for some time" (CYCLIST, 12/12).

FLOYD'S PRO CYCLING: CYCLING MAGAZINE's Philippe Tremblay reported the new team sponsored by Floyd Landis has a new name, a bike sponsor and its "first roster announcements." The UCI Continental team registered in Canada will be called Floyd's Pro Cycling after legal issues with the Canadian government "prevented the cannabis entrepreneur" from naming the team after his company, Floyd's Of Leadville. Gord Fraser will be the team's director. The team will race using U.S.-based Van Dessel bicycles in '19 (CYCLING MAGAZINE, 12/11).

The Int'l Cricket Council "roped in" Indian alcohol beverage brand Royal Stag as official sponsor for the next five years, according to Gaurav Laghate of the ECONOMIC TIMES. The partnership, which runs through '23, will cover int'l events, including the upcoming big-ticket calendar events -- the Cricket World Cup, T20 World Cup and World Test Championship. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but industry experts estimate the deal to be in the range of $25-$30M for five years. Royal Stag manufacturer Pernod Ricard India CMO Kartik Mohindra said, "It is safe to say that this is a large association and our brand is taking a leap with it. To me, there is a cost to such association, but in return, we are getting a 360-degree amplification." The company has also "roped in" seven cricketers -- Faf du Plessis, Ben Stokes, K.L. Rahul, Andre Russel, Kane Williamson, Mitchell Starc and Angelo Mathews for its new campaign. Created by Ogilvy & Mather, the campaign is directed by Llyod Baptista and "will be rolled out shortly" (ECONOMIC TIMES, 12/12). INSIDE SPORT's Harsh Sharma reported it is the ICC's second sponsorship deal with an Indian alcohol brand "within a fortnight" after the governing body announced beer brand Bira 91 as its official sponsor for global tournaments (INSIDE SPORT, 12/12).

The #VaiMedina (Go Medina) campaign was launched last week with Brazilian idols including Pelé, Neymar, Ronaldinho, Daniel Alves, Kaka and Gisele Bündchen to show Brazilian pride for Gabriel Madina, who is competing for his second World Surf League title. Gabriel entered the final event of the season, which began on Wednesday in Pipeline, Hawaii, as the leader of the world rankings (Go4it). 

Irish convenience retailer Spar has "renewed its sponsorship" with the FA of Irealnd, with the new deal valued at €1M ($1.1M) and running through '21. Spar will "support Irish football at grassroots level." Under a separate commercial deal, Ireland's Séamus Coleman is Spar’s "official brand ambassador and the face of its healthy eating campaign," along with model Claudine Keane, the wife of former striker Robbie Keane (IRISH TIMES, 12/13).

Chelsea revealed a "shirtholders kit" designed by a fan and "selected after several rounds of competition." The winning shirt is inspired by Chelsea's '12 Champions League triumph, and "draws upon" former striker Didier Drogba's stats from that game (London DAILY MAIL, 12/12).

Figure skaters Jac Orie and Richard Plugge's Team Oranje secured Visma as a second name sponsor for at least five years, starting in '19. Norwegian company Visma provides business software, IT solutions for retail and IT-related development and consultancy. Both the skating and the cycling team will act as Team Jumbo-Visma (Visma).

Esports organization PENTA Sports partnered with Germany-based cinema merchandise company MMmedia to "update its online store." The partnership will see MMmedia "take over the merchandising side of the  PENTA," which manages teams across multiple esports titles including "Rainbow Six Siege," "League of Legends" and "Fortnite" (THE ESPORTS OBSERVER, 12/12).
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