The business model of cycling can make riders’ efforts come to nothing. The teams’ dependence on sponsors combined with the limited engagement of cycling fans creates great insecurity in the life of a pro rider. This I have experienced firsthand. That’s why I’m joining the #RoadToBEAT as an ambassador. The ultimate goal: a professional cycling team based on a club structure.
Cycling teams don’t have their own identity. The team has no enduring “face” due to the constantly changing jerseys, a direct result of sponsors changing. Changing the team name, colors, and underlying core and brand values makes it impossible to create a stable fan base. When a team has its own identity, fans can connect to the club.
Cycling is totally dependent on sponsorship income. If the sponsor leaves, the whole team stops, leaving the riders to their fate. It is critical that multiple sponsors be connected to the team. That’s why a new value proposition must be created that goes further than only selling visibility for company logos. In addition to broadening the sponsorship base, new revenue sources must be created, like new events or activities in which fans can participate.
Even sponsors don’t make the most out of their current business model. They do not build a strong enough connection between their company or brand and their target audience. For this reason, sponsorship is only interesting for a short time, and sponsors often come and go in quick succession. To help turn the tide and make cycling more sustainable, the first professional cycling team based on a club structure will be launched in 2017: BEAT Cycling Club.
The club model as an alternative
Cycling needs to be established according the club model, a structure that is common in football. A club like Ajax, PSV or Feyenoord, for example, has multiple sources of income. And the identity stays the same, regardless of the sponsor. The club has its own name, colors, and core and brand values – the reason why fans want to connect to the club. That’s why the development of BEAT Cycling Club is crucial. My career would have looked a lot different if there had been a club like this back in my time.
With the club structure, riders’ livelihood is secured and long-term support for top talent is strengthened. Opportunities are created for riders to connect to the club. A club offers youth the possibility to continue to grow and make steps toward the pro peloton, without risking the interruption of support because the team is changing sponsors. The sustainability of this model gives pro riders stability and offers young talents the chance to develop. I would have signed up for this.
Bobbie Traksel, ex-pro rider, current president of the UCI Athletes’ Commission and the Dutch riders’ union (VVBW)