Friday, May 05, 2006

How not to keep a sponsor or get a new one.

I admit, up front, that this post is probably a bit more personal bias than it is marketing related. Bare with me on this and wait until the end to pass judgement... even though this is sure to stir a bit of discussion.

Wear your damn helmet Jackass! Ok, I said it. I got it off my chest... I feel marginally better now. As mentioned above, hear me out...

I am alive today because I wear a helmet. I didn't always and I will occasionally ride from my office, two blocks to the deli to pick up my lunch without a helmet on, but outside of that I wear a helmet every single time I get on a bicycle. Sure, maybe I'd gain style points and Euro-wannabe steet cred' if I trained without a helmet on. With a wife and two children though, I'm not just riding for myself anymore. Every action I make effects other people who rely on me to come home each day. That's a pretty strong motivator for me. Plus, as much as I hate to admit it, my "public life" makes me something of an example to a few people who happen to pay attention to what I do or say. Believe it or not, that means something to me. Yeah, yeah... I know the lame argument of freedom and comfort, but that is the lamest BS I've ever heard. How cool or free are you going to be when you are in a hospital bed with a tube in your mouth doing the breathing for you while your friends and family stand around wiping the drool off of your face? In my humble opinion, not too darned cool. Hey, I'll happily stay a nerd with zero style if it keeps me alive long enough to watch my kids grow old. (I had a teammate once, on a really powerful team, who would turn around and ride a different direction if anybody showed up without a helmet for a training ride because he didn't want to be the one to have to call somebody's wife and tell her that her husband was dead or injured because he was too cool to wear a helmet.)

I'm done with the preaching part of all of this and will now step down off my high horse and off of the soap box. I'm not saying I won't be there again, but I'm done for the moment. Long enough to get to the point anyway.

I won't name names, but there is a local club here in San Diego that has a pretty good elite race team. This elite team has done really well this year too. Won some nice races against some pro teams even. They should be proud of themselves and I know that they are. This team is supported, in part, by the club of probably more than 300 members. This club works very hard to promote the sport of cycling and to develop junior riders who will one day move up to become great pro riders or elite amateurs. They are an ambitious club and they have done a lot in San Diego over the years. With all that said, their elite team has done a great job of insuring that I won't be sponsoring them. I might be willing to work out something with the director of the junior program, but the elite team is out of the question.

Why is this? Well, as you might have guessed by the opening paragraphs, it's because they don't wear helmets. The entire elite team isn't guilty and they all have to wear helmets during races, since those are the rules, but I almost daily see members of the team out on training rides without helmets on. On a personal level I see this as total idiocy, but as a manufacturer in the industry (and this is the whole point of this diatribe) I see this as very poor potential representation for my brand. These guys are supposed to be representing their sponsors and their team, but they are doing a crappy job of it. I don't honestly know if they have an official team helmet sponsor, but if they do and I was that helmet sponsor I'd be really pissed. If these morons want to look cool, fine, do it out of the team gear. If you're going to be making an ass of yourelf, at least do the team and the sponsors the favor of wearing clothing that doesn't tie you to them. Guilt by association, as the saying goes.

Honestly, I don't want to have anything to do with the team for this reason. It proves to me that they do not honor their sponsors or the values of the club. Remember, this club is developing junior riders too. Whether the guys on the elite team want to admit it or not, the junior kids are watching them and what they do and some of them even look up to the guys on the elite team and want to be like them. (I do not support athletes serving as role models and think it is ridiculous for people to expect them to be "perfect".) I don't like it any more than the elite riders do, but that is what happens.

If I provided the team with frames and then saw the guys racing on another brand, I'd be pissed off and would be having a serious talk with the team director. If I were a helmet sponsor for a team, even a Pro Tour team riding the Tour de France, and the riders were always being photographed without my helmet on, I'd be pissed off and pulling my money out of the program. Maybe I'm alone, or nearly alone, in this particular belief. Maybe not. It is something I feel strongly about though and is something that teams should consider when sending me their sponsorship requests.

Bottom line, for teams looking to gain new sponsors or keep existing sponsors, the name of the game is "be a good ambassador". Look good. Act smart. Be thankful.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
(In all fairness, this critique applies to the wonderful Pro/ Elite team that I currently sponsor. Wear your helmets if you want to keep your sponsorship... I won't be at the next training camp if a helmet rule isn't enforced.)

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:53 PM


  1. Blogger C posted at 2:53 PM  
    Not riding with a helmet is nothing compared to what I see a lot of teams doing. Not wearing a helmet while stupid, is still perfectly legal in most areas. What is both stupid AND illegal is blowing through traffic lights and stop signs. Despite this, I see team riders doing this on an almost daily basis. Apparently being on a team exempts you from traffic laws. If I were a sponsor - and especially if I were a sponsor outside the industry - I'd be pulling my money from these teams in a nanosecond. Why sponsor someone who's going to annoy motorists by acting like they're above the law and continue to give all cyclists (not just racers) a bad name?
  2. Blogger Yokota Fritz posted at 3:21 PM  
    I almost always wear a helmet. Like you, I typically don't if I'm going across the street to the coffee place or sushi bar. The admin in my building still gives me grief about it.

    I agree with "c" about these club rides that completely blow through lights and signs.
  3. Blogger Guitar Ted posted at 3:52 PM  
    Great rant, Tim, and well said. I agree that the cyclists in question are not being wise, or good examples.

    I'd like to go back to something you stated early on in this post that I think is the crux of the biscuit. ( appologies to Frank Zappa!) Anyway, you stated that your actions as a person affect the lives of those around you. This is where we can go to when we need to point out why these seemingly undeniable personal "freedoms" are....well, not so free!

    Even if you are not a family member, and your actions seem to affect no one, it's a shame and a lie to think this way. As a cyclist, you have impact. Heck, as a person you have impact! You just do not slip by "under the radar" like so many of us think we are doing. You are noticed. People are watching. Don't believe me? Take notice of your own watching and commenting on other folks. Guess what? They are doing the same.

    The final thing to remember is that there is no greater joy than passing on your passion to others. either directly or indirectly. When that junior developement squad sees the elite racers enjoying the ride and sharing their passion, that's cool. But when those same elite riders are seen blowing through stop signs, clogging the traffic lanes, and not wearing protective gear they are "breeding" more like behaviour. Not just on the junior developement team, but on any other cyclists that look up to the guys on this team.

    You are right to with hold sponsorship from teams like this.
  4. Blogger Tim Jackson posted at 8:47 PM  
    Thanks to all for commenting.

    Yes, the helmet thing is very much a personal issue for me. However, relevant to the discussion about sponsorship relations, it is just plain stupid to represent sponsors so poorly. Whether it's not wearing a sponsors helmet or acting like an ass while on the bike, to keep sponsors you have to be good to them.

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