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  • 01.06.15

    Sponsorship and professional cycling

    Sponsors walk away from professional cycling with alarming regularity. Do teams do enough to keep them? Insights from inside Tinkoff Sport and Saxo Bank

    Words
    Timothy John
    Photographs
    Timothy John

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.

Truck, blue and yellow, sponsors logos, Giro d'Italia 2015, stage 15, Tinkoff-Saxo mechanics' truck

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.

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