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Volume 20 No. 42
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Cycling event adds sponsor revenue

In its second year, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge bicycle race has taken a step forward with its sponsorship business, and race organizers think the event — funded largely by Colorado restaurateur Rick Schaden — could be self-sufficient in three to four years. The race runs Aug. 20-26 in Colorado.

The number of major partners has increased from nine to 12, but sponsorship revenue has tripled from 2011, said CEO Shawn Hunter, who took leadership of the race six months before its debut.

The Colorado race has tripled its sponsor revenue heading into its second edition, which will take place Aug. 20-26.
“The model is the same: Less is more,” Hunter said. “We want 10 to 12 founding partnerships, the same as what you see at the Tour [de France] or the U.S. Open.”

The race debuted last year with Nissan, United Health Care, Coca-Cola, RadioShack, Waste Management, Kroger and Exergy Development Group each paying high-five to low-six-figure sums. The deals, Hunter said, were for a year, and had to be signed on a compressed schedule. Sources pegged the race’s total budget in the $10 million range, much of it supplied by Schaden, whose Quiznos and Smashburger chains paid $1.5 million each for sponsorship space.

This year the race has signed new multiyear partnerships with the Colorado Tourism board, Centura Health, Dutch water company Aquadraat, recovery drink Umii and Colorado-based brewery New Belgium. It also has signed multiyear renewals with Nissan, Waste Management, United Health Care, Coca-Cola and RadioShack. Sources valued the 2012 partnerships in the low- to mid-six-figure range annually. Smashburger will continue its partnership for 2012; financial details were not available.

“Every [deal] we did last year was a one-year deal, because we wanted to prove ourselves and then improve our market value,” Hunter said.

Hunter said the race will introduce premium seating at the finish areas for $75 to $250, with between 500 and 2,500 seats available, depending on the size of the finishing city.

Last year the race attracted the world’s top pro teams, and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. It featured 26 live hours of television on Versus, now the NBC Sports Network, as well as international TV coverage on Eurosport.

For 2012, the race has signed a new domestic deal with NBC Sports that includes 29 total hours of coverage and four hours of live coverage on NBC. It has not completed its international TV deal. Sources said the race does not receive a rights fee from NBC.

Meredith Giske, event director at New Belgium, said the Colorado-based beer company signed its deal because of the race’s national and local footprint. Giske said the two-year deal represents the largest endorsement ever for New Belgium. “Last year it was hard to see the event being that successful and knowing we weren’t involved,” Giske said. “Cycling is an important lifestyle element for us.”

Fred Dreier is a writer in New York.