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Volume 21 No. 1

Events and Attractions

Two years out from Richmond, Va., hosting the 2015 UCI Road Cycling World Championships, event organizers face the challenge of attracting national and international sponsors in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s doping controversy, which has sent marketers running from the sport.

The weeklong world championship awards individual titles in road racing and time trials at the elite, under-23 and junior levels. Since its debut in 1927, the annual event has been held outside of Europe only seven times and only once in the United States: Colorado Springs hosted it in 1986.

The UCI Road Cycling World Championships are rarely held outside Europe.
American cities have shied away from hosting the event because of its sizable budget — currently in the $20 million to $25 million range — and because it traditionally requires substantial public funding. Road bicycle races generate no gate receipts, and the relatively small television audience generally negates a rights fee.

Lee Kallman, who oversees marketing for the Richmond event, said he has sold approximately $12 million in sponsorships to local and regional entities. Included in that figure are pledges from the city and state, though Kallman expects public dollars to account for just 15 percent of the $21 million budget.

“We’re ahead of schedule,” Kallman said. “It gives us time to work through our TV deal and other assets.”

Still, that leaves about a $9 million gap in funding at a time when attracting major sponsors to the sport of cycling has become difficult. Longtime cycling sponsor Rabobank pulled out of pro cycling in October. Nissan ended its sponsorship of Armstrong’s team in December, and RadioShack reportedly is leaving the sport altogether after 2013.

“I think anyone would be remiss to say [the Armstrong controversy] didn’t hurt the sport with nonendemic sponsors,” said Matt Wikstrom, who oversees bicycle and endurance sports sponsorships for Wasserman Media Group. “But when you look at what cities are doing with bike lanes and bike infrastructure, there is a resurgence around people’s interest in bicycles.”

The UCI, or International Cycling Union, also forbids a title sponsor for the entire race week, so Kallman said he’s adopted a creative approach to selling the event. The UCI does allow principal sponsorships for each day of competition, so Richmond plans to alter the racing schedule to include women’s and youth races on specific days, which Kallman hopes can open the door for more targeted marketing.

Kallman also said Richmond will organize mass-participant rides, amateur races, a health expo, and events promoting alternative transportation and sustainability. A study conducted by Chmura Economics and Analytics predicts 400,000 to 500,000 spectators will attend at least one of the races. The event also hopes to fund a handful of legacy projects, including a trail system connecting Richmond to Williamsburg, about 50 miles away.

“We’re not just selling a bike race here,” Kallman said. “We talk to [partners] about leveraging the championships as a way to talk to their employees and customers about sustainability and health and other things.”

In addition to a dozen or so six-figure deals, Kallman has secured low-seven-figure sponsorships with Philip Morris’ parent company Altria Group, Genworth Financial, local power company Dominion and packaging company MeadWestvaco. Ned Massee, vice president of corporate affairs for MeadWestvaco, which has 800 employees in the city, said his company is still developing its plans for the event.

“We see this as a great retention and recruitment tool because activity and health, that’s important to our employees,” Massee said. “What if Richmond could become the Denver or the Portland of the East Coast?”

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, which last month was named one of four finalists for the X Games, plans to host the event at zMax Dragway, the facility’s 30,000-seat drag strip, should it win the right to host the event.

Renderings shows the layout for X Games events inside the 30,000-seat zMax Dragway.
Charlotte is bidding against sites in Chicago, Detroit and Austin, Texas. ESPN is expected to announced the winning bid in June or July for the X Games, which are scheduled to be held in the same city from 2014 to 2016.

CMS President Marcus Smith said that placing the event at the dragway would allow spectators to have a better vantage point for the X Games’ different competitions. Everything from street skate to big air to motocross would be featured inside the venue.

“The way we’ve gotten scale drawings of everything that’s part of the Games and the way our designers have laid it out makes it possible to host everything right there between the grandstands,” Smith said. “And with the dirt track right next door, that would make the perfect location for a rally course.”

Smith said the racetrack would sell tickets for the X Games if it won the right to host the event. The summer X Games have been held in Los Angeles since 2003.

“Having the X Games in a venue like zMax Dragway puts the entire Games on a platform so much higher than they’ve ever been on before in a much more fan-friendly way that can’t be matched by anything else,” he added. “When you factor in all the folks that want to see the X Games, in a temporary setup you can’t make an accommodation for fans to be that close with that many facilities. We’ve got restrooms and parking and camping. It will take that kind of facility to really to bring the best fan experience to the X Games.”

— Tripp Mickle