Professional cycling is getting a much-needed boost heading into the 100th rendition of its major annual event, the Tour de France. Los Angeles based tech company Belkin has announced a deal to sponsor the artists formerly known as the Rabobank Pro Cycling team through 2015. The Dutch lending firm is just one of the many team sponsors to remove themselves from the sport in the wake of all-time cycling great Lance Armstong’s fall from grace.
Rabobank asserted, “the trust in the cycling world has gone,” upon its withdrawal of its $20 million annual sponsorship. Nissan has also dissociated from another cycling team featuring at least one member with ties to Armstrong’s serial use of performance enhancing drugs. In addition, The HTC-Highroad team was forced out of commission because of potential sponsors’ hesitation to associate with a sport whose history is rooted in corruption.
Belkin has an incredible opportunity to expand its brand globally this weekend. The Tour de France is one of the only truly global sporting events. The three week long ride provides ample advertising opportunity, especially if the Belkin Pro Cycling team competes near the front of the pack. Riding as Team Blanco, Belkin’s new squad has already amassed 19 victories this year. The team is comprised of 29 different cyclists of five different nationalities. Belkin currently sells products to more than 100 countries, and will look to amplify its presence in the global market with this move.
Belkin has pledged to uphold a no-nonsense policy on doping, a plan that their newest sponsees should have no problem respecting. The team made the decision to ride as Team Blanco after being dropped by Rabobank to signify a fresh start for its members and the sport in general. They will remain a member of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) as they ride under the Belkin umbrella. The MPCC is an assembly of teams devoted to cleaning up the sport, holding themselves to even stricter anti-doping measures than those established by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
This sponsorship represents a huge investment for the California consumer technology firm. In fact, CEO Chet Pipkin says it is the largest Belkin has ever made in the marketing arena. Pipkin will not be the only person eager for this marriage to work. From prospective sponsors to the most casual of fans, the world will be monitoring the success of this relationship closely. The tech savvy and faithful cycling fan base already in place fits well with the Belkin brand. Pipkin hopes this association with a well-established pro team will introduce Belkin to a new pool of consumers and stimulate the reemergence of cycling on the world scale.
Lance Armstrong was once one of the most revered athletes in the world, but the truth behind his success has pushed many potential followers in the other direction. Fans of a sport in need of a savior should be optimistic about the combination of an enthusiastic sponsor and a team devoted to competing with honesty and integrity. Belkin’s pledge bodes well for professional cycling, but the question remains: How will the sport recover from the fall of its prodigal son?
A good showing by the Belkin Pro Cycling squad in France will go a long way in accomplishing just that.
Catch coverage of the 100th annual Tour de France throughout July on NBC Sports Network.