The nightly search for any form of Pro Cycling on the TV is nearly at an end, reminding us that the new season is nearly upon us. Time then to reflect on the funding model that supports top level cycling from a sponsors perspective. As with most things cycling, the definitive word on this subject is admirably covered over on the inrng site, but we at Millltag have our own view on the benefits for us as sponsors, and for the teams and individuals involved. This year particularly we are working at two seemingly opposite ends of the cycling spectrum, but with more in common than you might think.
We announced on January 1st that we are once again proud kit sponsors of the Matrix women’s racing team, which have this year stepped up to full pro level and now feature World Track Pursuit champion Laura Trott amongst their roster. For large consumer brands the appeal of team sponsorship is obvious, it’s a valuable marketing opportunity the provides a trickle-down of technology and imagery into their consumer offering. Likewise for us, the impteus of having to create pro-level team kit each year forces us to seek out the best materials, styling and finishing. The products are tested and feedback is immediate, allowing us to refine the offering in time for the start of the season. We can then offer the same level of products to amateur team’s, clubs and associations – so long as you can get 10 of you to agree on the design we can make the same level of kit for your next trip.
Social media too has transformed the landscape for sponsors. Previously we would be expected to take out multiple glossy adverts in key publications to promote our association with a team or individuals, and this is very much still the approach of the global players. For us though we are indebted to the riders who take to twitter, facebook and instagram to show off the new kit, endorse the product and generally spread the love. Not only does this create a sense of involvement between the team and sponsor, but also a sense of shared of common purpose with our fellow sponsors. Trek are one of the world’s leading cycling brands but their sponsorship of the Matrix team bring us into their orbit and all the positive associations that go with it.
The flip side of the same coin is our sponsorship of Steve Abraham’s attempt at the year distance record. If you’ve not been following this (and if not, why not?), to date Steve has completed approx 2,500 miles in the first 14 days of his quest to better the current record of 75,065 miles. We wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, and if you’d like to keep up to date with his current progress and get involved with the debate i’d advise popping over to the dedicated yacf forum where his support team and volunteers regularly post updates and visualisations of his progress. Milltag were the very first sponsor to step forward and our decision has been more than vindicated with tv coverage on the BBC, C4 and CNN plus multiple mentions in the press and online. More importantly for us though is the chance to support a true British sporting endeavour – it’s not athletic prowess that is required here (although Steve has already proved himself a very strong rider) but good old grit, determination and a focus on the final goal. That, and all-you-can-eat breakfasts and ‘spoons 2for1’s.
What these seemingly oppositional commitments have in common, and what makes it especially appealing to us is they are both supporting UK cycling with a common aim to increase participation in cycling at all levels. You don’t need to race your heart out, or ride 200’s each day but all of us can take inspiration from those that do and inspire us to take up our own 2-wheel challenge. Sponsorship in cycling has been around for many decades but for us it remains the best, the most effective way of putting something back into the sport we love.