Luxembourg can be a secretive place, the OECD’s “grey list” of countries accused the country oof lacking financial transparency and it’s reportedly the country of choice for the North Korean dictatorship to stash its ill-gotten gains.
We are still weeks away from reading anything official on the workings the Luxembourg cycling team. Remember this is effectively the world’s top-rated squad and with potentially last summer’s Tour de France winner as well. Now we can be pretty sure about the funding, a lot of the cash is coming from Flavio Becca, an entrepreneur with real estate activities. There are the known sponsors like Mercedes and Trek and rumoured sponsors like Jabra, LuxAir and the Luxembourg government itself, possibly the post and telecom arm.
Slow news day
But nobody knows that much more. The team is deliberately cultivating an air of mystery. Whilst many rider signings were obvious, the team management sat on them and then slowly released the details, often one by one. It’s good PR, it ensures that on a quiet day the press release about signing, say, Dominic Klemme somehow gets more attention than it might otherwise do. But at the same time it can give an impression of uptight secrecy. Remember, this is a sports team, not a bank.
|Nygaard pointing the media in the right direction|
The team is directed by a PR professional, Brian Nygaard. The Dane was the press handler at CSC and Saxo and then moved to Team Sky for 2010 in order to head up their media efforts. But along came the chance to manage a team. So it’s no surprise to see the team closely associated with basic marketing tricks like tight control of its message. After all what else is a team but a marketing message for its sponsors?
Yet I can’t help wonder if this team isn’t trying to be too clever. It’s basically a sports team, this isn’t a revolutionary consumer product waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public like an Apple gizmo.
Who cares who the sponsor is?
The mystery here is about a team’s backers. Yet we already know that Andy Schleck will race the Tour de France with support from his brother, Cancellara, Fuglsang, Voigt, Gerdemann and others. Put simply, often the identity and nature of the team doesn’t matter that much to the sporting aspect. Whether the Schlecks are promoting bubblegum or yoghurt doesn’t change the way they ride. In many ways us fans shouldn’t care but regular readers will know The Inner Ring appreciates detail and keeps an eye on the money behind the sport. Plus in the light of the
But what if…?
But what if the team’s name, image and very basis did matter to the fans? What if the marketing guys have gone back to the drawing board and realised that there’s a big gap in the concept of cycling: the team. Right now many fans have loyalty to riders and not teams. Even the casual household viewer in Europe can recognise Contador and Cancellera but they probably have no idea about Astana or Saxo. What if this could be changed?
Imagine a new way that placed a much bigger emphasis on the culture of a team and its association with the riders? Take the daily communications of Team Sky (adjusted to make the team actually sound fun), the fly-on-the-wall Cervélo films and the accessibility of Garmin and then go much further, especially with some attractive clothing and a cohesive branding and design that doesn’t have to promote laminate flooring or bottled gas. It’s not beyond the marketing guys.
Back on Planet Earth
But that would be a big leap. In the meantime I’m awaiting the team’s launch on 6 January and am particularly interested to know the details of how the team is financed. But I’d also like to see the mystery dropped when it comes to other ideas like training plans, the anti-doping stance and other subjects.
It’s no secret that many fans around the world have time for the likes of Cervélo and Garmin this year because of the way they communicated with fans but it’s also true that these teams have won fans in the media too. Being popular with sections of the media isn’t the essential goal but a means to an end.
Once we get to know the source of the money, the sponsors are named and what the kit looks like, perhaps the bigger question is whether the team opens up to fans and the media on more fundamental issues during the season.