Sponsorship is the lifeblood of a professional cycling team. But what’s in it for the sponsor?
The cost of running a ProTeam is high – the most successful teams run on an annual budget of €20m and more – and the rewards comparatively meagre.
Even for team owners like the vastly wealthy Oleg Tinkov, however, the contribution of sponsors is not insignificant, and makes a substantial reduction to running costs.
From a total staff of nearly 80 people, Tinkoff-Saxo’s personnel at the Giro d’Italia extends to nine riders, six masseurs, four mechanics, three sports directors, two chefs, one doctor, one therapist and a visiting coach for the time-trials. Professional cycling is many things, but it ain’t cheap.
Sponsorship places an onus on both the team and the backer to “activate” - in short, to ensure that the sponsorship does everything possible to satisfy the commercial ambitions of the companies signing the cheques.
To no small extent, it is in this unromantic area – far removed from the glory and suffering of the peloton – that the future of the sport depends, despite the ambitions of the Velon group to develop alternative revenue sources.
It is a subject on which at least two senior figures at Tinkoff-Saxo believe the sport must improve exponentially if it is to attract long-term support from commercial giants like Coca-Cola. And it is an area that at least one of the WorldTour's more established sponsors is pursuing with renewed vigour.