Today has been kind of an exciting day for me today. (By the way, I know that the use of today twice in the same sentence is redundant, but it gave me another good word to use for the hyperlink.) The racing team that my company is sponsoring has signed a major non-cycling company as their new title sponsor; Abercrombie & Fitch.
This is big news for the team and for me and the company I get to represent. However, this is also smart marketing and great for all involved with the team. Now, I haven't had the chance to speak with my co-sponsors at Abercrombie yet (though I am really looking forward to it), but given their track record in advertising, marketing and brand recognition I can not imagine that they will not make full use of the sponsorship relationship. As a commenter on my other blog site queried; "Congrats! So is A&F going to require all the riders to pose nude for their catalogue shots?" I somehow doubt that will happen, but it shows the power of their marketing... especially if you consider that the commenter is commenting from Norway and is still familiar with the company and their advertising.
Non-endemic (outside of the industry) sponsors are usually pretty hard to attract to cycling. Given that the sport makes it hard to quantify how successful your marketing efforts are, without having the luxury of a major, Tour winning team. The arrival of Abercrombie on the scene is very exciting and is hopefully the beginning of more to come. Ralph Lauren sponsored a very successful mountain bike team for a number of years and had some great riders with great performances getting them wonderful exposure. This helped them to launch a line of Ralph Lauren cycling apparel. The clothing did "ok" by most accounts, but never did really well and eventually they pulled out of the program and the sport altogether. Bummer. Now, one of the more peculiar and intriguing aspects of this new deal with A&F is that they do not make cycling clothing and as far as I know (which I don't), they don't have any plans to start. However, they have a brand with enormous popularity and an image built on youth and a healthy lifestyle. Cycling certainly fits that description and will hopefully prove to be a great avenue for the marketing dollars.
Speaking of marketing dollars... one of the great benefits to me is that I will get to ride their coat tails whenever they do any marketing related to the team. Obviously they have a much bigger budget than I do, so they can afford to market in magazines and other avenues that would simply be way to cost prohibitive for me and my company. Even if they do not show a Masi bicycle in the ad/s, the association will be good for my brand. I obviously hope that they will choose to do an ad (or 50) with the team on or with their bikes, but it won't really be necessary for me. Any mention of the team will be good for me.
For both A&F and me, I am very hopeful that the team will be able to get into the biggest events in the country, such as the Tour of Georgia. The media blitz created by the event will be a great stage to show off the team and the sponsors, so I am hoping the team gets the call to the show. I envision a team of "under dogs" with tons of talent taking on the best teams in the country and the world for a week of great exposure. Even if they don't go to Georgia, they will be at the other major US events and will be carrying the mantle of "under dog" at many of those events as they take on more experienced pro teams. Personally, I've always loved the marketability of the classic "under dog" story. (I keep using under dog in quotations because I believe in these guys and don't see them as being outgunned, but they will still get that title as a first year Pro/Elite team.)
Abercrombie has made my day, in many ways. I am happiest for the team because it makes them so much more stable now and insures that they will have the budget necessary to race a full schedule and do some great things- like win races. Most of all, I'm happy to see a smart and supremely well marketed company come to the dance. They will decidedly make a huge splash and I am sure ripples from the announcement are making their way around the bike industry and soon many other industries.
To poorly qoute Bogart in Casablanca; "this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."
(Editorial Note; I have been getting lots and lots of congratulations on this deal and just want to clarify that I do not get the credit for making this happen. Chad Thompson, the Team Director, gets the credit. The fact that A&F are based in Ohio, where the team is from, helped with all of this. I am simply lucky enough to have been able to work with the team and am now getting a free ride on the exposure A&F will be able to generate. The hard work was all done by Chad.)
Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:04 PM