article by Spencer Martin and Steve Maxwell
During this unprecedented time, it is more critical than ever that pro cycling teams find new and creative ways to stay engaged with their fans, and to continue to deliver value to their sponsors. The Outer Line surveys team initiatives in the lockdown situation so far, and throws out a broad range of engagement ideas for teams to consider.
This is an unprecedented time for pro cycling teams. Like virtually every other entity across the global community, teams are cautiously inching forward. Without much idea of what the near-term future holds, team managers are anxiously trying to determine the best ways to keep their teams motivated and fit, how to develop new revenue models, how to innovate new methods of fan engagement, and how to provide at least some value to economically challenged sponsors. There really isn’t a roadmap for this kind of situation in any professional sport; yet, with each passing day, it becomes more imperative that teams find creative ways to sustain themselves through this lockdown. It’s critical that we all try to think outside the proverbial box, and throw out lots of ideas for consideration.
The Outer Line conducted a quick website survey of all the WorldTeams, to see what types of new and innovative activities different teams were trying to put in place over these last three weeks or so – since racing ground to a halt after the early finish of Paris-Nice. The majority of WorldTeams have not yet publicized plans for any kind of new activities, virtual racing events, or new fan engagement initiatives.
Several teams have posted press releases about their current status, and/or outlook on the 2020 season. For example, the Groupama-FDJ website hosts an interview with team manager Marc Madiot about the canceled races so far. Team EF Pro Cycling has an interesting photo-driven blog of Lachlan Morton and Alex Howes who were headed to the now-canceled Cape Epic. A few others have interviews with popular riders about the rescheduling of the Olympics, or other COVID-19 related changes to the sport.
But as of the past weekend, only three WorldTeams – NTT Cycling, Israel Start-Up Nation, and Mitchelton-Scott – actually have anything on their websites regarding new activities – virtual races, new events with the team open to the public. The Israel-based team quickly started their own Zwift virtual ride, open to fans from all over the world, to help spread the “STAY AT HOME” message as part of the global fight against the coronavirus. Mitchelton-Scott announced a plan to pay homage to canceled races as they launched “BikeExchange – Where the World Rides Series.” NTT Cycling head Doug Ryder said, “To protect ourselves and to stay relevant we are focused on doing internal team building for our partners.” U.S.-based Rally Cycling launched an interactive series of at-home, social media-based fitness challenges, designed to build community spirit as more and more areas within its healthcare market began locking down.
This is one of the most critical moments in the sport’s history, and the teams must innovate and diversify. All sports are facing severe economic challenges at the moment, but cycling’s historically weak sponsorship business model leaves it poorly positioned to generate revenues when the content is thin – no racing to broadcast, no public events to bring teams and fans together.
No one is certain how long the current crisis will last; indeed, at this point, we don’t even really know how many teams will ultimately survive. But a public and productive discussion about the spectrum of potential outreach and engagement options might help teams think outside of the box, and provide an opportunity to unify the sport. To assist in starting a discussion about what teams can do to stay engaged and relevant during this crisis, The Outer Line throws out a number of ideas below….
Rider, Fan and Sponsorship Engagement Ideas for Pro Cycling Teams:
We assume that all teams are diligently working on similar initiatives or ideas on a real-time basis, so as to stay relevant and engaging. Hopefully there will be many other bright ideas and initiatives. Some of these might work for some teams, but not for others. But what’s important is for all the teams to pull together – to gain collective strength from this time of crisis, to make the sport a more vital and engaging place to both existing and new fans, and to continue delivering value to their all-important sponsors.
The Outer Line
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