European energy company Enovos has been a co-sponsor of the Radioshack-Nissan team, starting with Leopard-Trek last year. But it has just announced it is walking away mid-season from the cycling team, publicly dropping its connections to the team. This is very rare in cycling and sport in general.
Here’s the press release translated into English:
In the view of its partnership with the Luxembourg cycling team Leopard Trek, then Radioshack Nissan Trek, Enovos wishes to express its satisfaction with the events of 2011. It is notable that 2011 was, with the sponsorship of the Leopard-Trek team, very satisfying in terms of visbility, brand image and corporate communications for Enovos Group. In addition the results met expectations.
Unfortunately the 2012 season has not brought the expected results. Looking at the sporting side this is part of the risk of sports sponsorship. However, the image given by the Radioshack Nissan Trek team this year is in no way aligned with the image that Enovos wants to communicate. There have been too many negative aspects since the start of the year. Finally the withdrawal of Fränk Schleck from the 2012 Tour de France, following an abnormal result from an anti-doping control, has brought Enovos to reconsider its partnership with Radioshack Nissan Trek.
From now on the sponsorship will end on 1 August 2012. Enovos strongly deplores the happenings in the last months. All the same, as a socially responsible business, Enovos does not want to continue this partnership, given the values representing the brand image of Enovos are not compatible with the scandals linked to Radioshack Nissan Trek.
That’s my translation, you can download the official version in French. Note the firm tone, the sponsor isn’t creeping away. The company slogan is “Energy for today. Caring for tomorrow” and they’re certainly making an energetic display of escaping: they are running away and making a public show of slamming the door, presumably to make sure everyone gets just how far they want to distance themselves from the team. Enovos could look sneaky for fleeing but they’re making a show of taking control.
In the immediate short term it means the team needs new clothing and has to get busy on the team vehicles and website to ensure all mention of Enovos is removed by 1 August.
But it’s far more than a logistical headache. It’s a humiliation for the team’s management. As Enovos admits, sometimes sports sponsorship doesn’t work out because the results don’t come. But we’ve had headlines that go well beyond bad luck
- Team boss Johan Bruyneel is going to an arbitration hearing over the organised doping within the US Postal team. The same for team doctor Pedro Celaya. Now both are innocent for now but a sponsor will be doing more than a face palm.
- Several riders have gone public with claims of unpaid wages. A big energy company relies on an image of dependability and security, being linked to an outfit that seemingly flicks its staff is very embarrassing.
- We’ve also seen riders voicing concerns that if they leave the team they won’t get to race for the rest of the year. Again this is not a advantageous story.
- Sadly the only “positive” story is Schleck’s adverse analytical finding during the Tour de France for a banned substance.
Remember, Enovos is based in Luxembourg where the Schlecks are big names and the team had plenty of resonance. Even relatively small stories like unpaid wages which might not get traction across the mainstream media in Europe are echoed in full in Luxembourg.
Has this happened before?
I can’t remember the last time a sponsor quit mid-season since Liberty Seguros quit the sport in 2006. This is not as bad, we’re talking a second tier sponsor but it’s bad for the team and bad for the sport as a whole at a time when we want more sponsorship and funding, not less.
A disastrous year for the team, on and off the road. There has been misfortune but some problems cannot be attributed to bad luck alone. Things always looked under pressure since the forced merger between Radioshack and Leopard last year. We’ve had the team prize in the Tour de France but rightly or wrongly this didn’t look like a collective triumph, rather individuals occupying each high placings.
Nevertheless, it’s very rare to see a sponsor quit mid-way in the year. The team probably won’t lose money but it will mean some logistical expense for the team and ironically the exit of the sponsor means another bad headline for the squad. You’d like to say the season can’t end soon enough for the team but there’s the risky story of Bruyneel’s USADA arbitration hearing in November. Sadly this is bad for the team but it’s not reflecting well on the sport as a whole.