ASO partners with Qatar Airways

Thursday, 23 June 2011

It doesn’t take much to help the environment!

So say Tour de France organisers for 2011. Before the race starts this year riders, team managers, the media and the publicity caravan will all be briefed on ways to help the environment, from rules on where riders can and cannot drop used food wrappers to advice for the media to car-pool and switch off the engine of their car if stationary for more than a minute. Indeed ASO says the reduction of C02 emissions is “our priority” too.

Only tomorrow it is expected that ASO will announce a new partnership with Qatar Airways, according to French business magazine Challenges. Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault will be on hand to trumpet the deal whereby the Gulf airline will become an official partner of the Tour de France. In case you wonder what an airline can do with the Tour de France, note the 575km transfer to Paris after Grenoble’s Stage 20 was supposed to happen via train, now this will apparently happen by plane. What was that priority again?

Qatar Airways

GNB > ORY

Qatar Airways is already a backer of pro cycling, being a sponsor of the Tour of Qatar. Unsurprising given both the race and the airline are backed by the Gulf state and ASO is the organiser of this race.

One thing to note is the long list of Tour de France sponsors. In recent weeks ASO has signed deals with the likes of Europcar and Banette, a French supplier of flour to bakeries, whilst Nestlé is widening its already big partnership with the addition of new brands to the race this year, like Nesquik. Some teams are struggling to find backers but the race seems to have big names queuing up.

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{ 18 comments }

Nic June 23, 2011 at 9:11 am

This seems to be extremely weird. In time, we’ll have millions of dollars/euros worth of sponsorships for races but no teams to race in them because they’ll have all gone bust because of no sponsorship!

Why doesn’t someone like Virgin (Beardy Branson must have some cash in his back pocket) start a cycling team?

keveddy June 23, 2011 at 9:16 am

Interesting. Mike Tomalaris from SBS (Australian broadcaster of the TdF) commented a few weeks back that SBS wasn’t having any trouble getting advertisers/sponsors around le Tour. You point out that the Tour itself is doing rather well, whereas teams are struggling.

Cycling is a growing hobby/pastime, amongst a very affluent 40+ audience – especially the Anglo audience – an attractive demographic for brands. So, it’s not surprising that advertisers are trying to get to cycling fans.

But they’re being smart about it. I’d argue that this is a case of sponsors/advertisers looking after their reputational risk. If you associate with a race organiser or a broadcaster, you’re removed from any doping scandal that might envelope a rider and or team – whereas if you’re sponsoring a team, there’s your brand name up there on every negative news story, directly associated with a cheat. It may not have put off Saxo Bank (do they know something we don’t?) but I’d bet money that that risk is putting off a lot of companies associating with teams at the top line.

I wonder what impact it has at grassroots level. Hmm, a question for the club secretary on the Saturday club run, I think.

The Inner Ring June 23, 2011 at 9:21 am

Nic: as keveddy says, a company can sponsor the race and get the associations they want, all without fear of doping scandals.

The sport can have a risky reputation but this race doesn’t, it’s a prime media event. Even for the teams, July is crucial, publicity in this race is very important. This can be guaranteed by sponsoring the race.

Nic June 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

INRNG: Absolutely agree with you on that front. I’m a business and economics student and I realise that the companies are protecting themselves and their image through being risk averse. But surely they must realise that this trend can’t continue. Like I said, its all good having the race with plenty of money, but what good is having the race if none of the teams have enough money to compete in it.

Craig June 23, 2011 at 9:46 am

Speaking from the sponsor perspective: in order to sponsor the sport, no matter what company it is that wants to do it, the target audience the company is trying to reach has to match up to that of the cycling audience. It’s all fine and well sponsoring the event for brand awareness, but at the end of the day, the sponsor wants those seeing the company name to go out and buy their product/service. The current market climate doesn’t allow companies just to through money at the sport for the hell of it. There has to be a clear case of return on investment.

Tom Parr June 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

Worth noting that this seems to be part of a recent bigger trend of Qatar putting its finger in some of the biggest pies in world sport: the World Cup being the obvious example, Qatari investors just bought into Paris St Germain FC and are often linked to English Premier League clubs, also motorsport.

Tom June 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

Also note that the ASO has the possibility to sell VIP-seats and trips to companies interested in giving their clients or dealers an incentive. Given the magnitude of the Tour de France this is a very solid way of making money. As long as the Tour is the biggest race in cycling and the biggest spectator event in the world ASO have a good way of cashing in on that by selling partnerships.

PT June 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

@ Tom – surely you mean the biggest spectator event in the cycling world? Apols if I’m being pedantic but TDF is small fry compared to many other sports events as far as I know.

JustJoshinYa June 23, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I like that you point out the irony of their environmental statements and their sponsorship deal. As a confessed treehugger/cyclist, it pains me to watch the peloton cruise down the road with a couple hundred motos, cars, vans, buses, etc – essentially taking one of the most environmentally friendly activities and adding in all those emissions (not to mention the garbage the cyclists toss too). Stage transfers via plane instead of train have an impact too and sure the trade off is they are getting flights for free or significant discounts now or riders are more rested, and on and on, but their statements and behavior are contradictory, so it’s good to call them out.
Cheers!

El Gato de la Cala June 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Old story; The clever beats the less. And thats probably why we see a team owned league within the next 18 months. Whoever is closest to the money, controls! Guess who ASO and the likes will chose? Moneymakers vs union leaders?

ColoradoGoat June 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Well,
money may be declining for the pro teams in terms of available sponsors, but this will all settle out though lower rider salaries. It may end up being that the only sponsors for many non-Belgium/Italian teams will be manufacturers of bike equipment. However, with their more limited budgets, it just means the teams will not be able to pay riders nearly as much.

To be honest, the sport did this to themselves, and at the end of the day.

ColoradoGoat June 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm

@El Gato:

This will be interesting, as in reality, the ASO still controls the cards, and because of this, they will ultimately make the rules by which the races are run (i.e. – radio ban, doping controls, equipment guidelines).

Will not be sad if UCI is taken out of pro cycling, as long as ASO (which to this day has seemed of the thee parties the least corrupt of the bunch) maintains their credibility.

El Gato de la Cala June 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm

@CG: No riders – no races! TDF with thrd level pros or Österreich-Rundfahrt with the premium club riders – I would immediately by an ticket to Wienna.

bikecellar June 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm

@PT yeah knaa nowt

Anon June 24, 2011 at 2:02 am

The thing about priorities is that they always change. Never trust a company that says safety is our number 1 priority – this will get pushed to side very quickly when schedule or budgets get tight.

nathan June 24, 2011 at 4:59 am

@Nic- Isn’t V Australia one of Branson’s airlines? I believe he technically does already sponsor a team with them.

Nic June 24, 2011 at 5:31 am

@Nathan: ah yes you have me there forgot about them only because they’re a small fry in the cycling world and virgin’s invested capital in them would be pretty small. Instead of wasting time with a hopeless formula 1 team, why not divert the funds to cycling

Impotence July 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Biking,If you are planning to be the next Lance Armstrong, you may need to rethink that. Pressure from a bicycle seat compresses the nerves and blood flow to your penis, and over a lengthy time period this can lead to temporary erectile dysfunction.

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