Cycling is a sport much different from others in many ways. Most team sports have avenues that allow you to join a club which makes you a part of a team. Cycling isn’t like that. It’s sometimes a team sport, but sometimes isn’t. Joining a club doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be part of anything. So how do you get to be part of a “team”?

Every week I receive emails from riders asking if they can become a member of the cycling team that I’m a part of (O2 Racing shown above). Most times the only thing that is stated is the rider’s results, upcoming goals and what he wants out of being on our team. There’s never any mention of why our team would benefit from having this person aboard.

The thing to first realise is that most of these teams at the club level are nothing but a bunch of mates who get together and wear the same kit. That’s all there is to it. It’s not very organised compared to most other sports. Usually someone in the team owns a business who helps purchase the kit or there is often a connection to a bike shop. If you are from the outside and want to be a part of a team, you should have something to offer. Like getting employment with a company, no one is going to hire you if they don’t know who you are and don’t know what value you’re bringing to the table. Just remember, at the club level of cycling, being a someone who wins lots of races doesn’t mean squat to a team if all you’re going to be doing is taking away the opportunities from the rest of the guys. Be prepared to take a backseat and help the team out for the first season.

How to get sponsorship

I remember being at a bikeshop a few weeks ago and a young lad walks in and simply asks (mumbles), “I’m looking for a team and a sponsorship. You got anything for me?” As I expected the owner of the bikeshop told him to buzz off, but much to my surprise the next week I saw this kid on a new bike wearing another bikeshop’s kit. The last way I’d recommend approaching potential sponsors is with this shotgun approach, but evidently it works for some.

It was refreshing getting this email from a young reader asking for advice rather than asking for sponsorship:

An old post of yours “How to get a cycling sponsorship” has prompted me to start looking for a sponsor. I am a first yr JW17. I have been cycling for about a year now. I was pick up through school for a ACT Academy of Sport/National Talent Identification and Development squad. I had never done any sport before so starting cycling I got a big shock! Since then I have loved it. I have been getting middle field results but have long term goals to stay in the sport.

Is there any other tips that you can give about getting a sponsorship? What companies should you try? Small, local companies wanting to get the word out or large, international companies that have a lot of money for marketing? Should you be selective or just try anyone and everyone to increase your chances? Do you know specifically of any companies that look favourably towards juniors? If you have the time I would appreciate any advice you have to offer.

My first piece of advice is to head over to the local races and taking a good look at which bikeshops are supporting the local riders. On occasion, bikeshops want their name spread throughout the club so they’ll sometimes give you a set of jersey and knicks if you ride and race for them (*a good relationship will have to be formed first. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything by walking in and asking for free stuff). The thing to remember about wearing someone’s kit is that you are now an ambassador for them. They want you to be seen and they want you to be positively representing them. Winning races does not always matter to the bikeshops (except for the case when the shop’s ego and bragging rights are involved). Through this you’ll probably meet other riders who wear the same kit and next thing you know you’ll be racing together as a team.

Distributers sometimes have budget set aside for sponsoring athletes at a grassroots level, however they’ll usually do this via a bikeshops so the athlete has a place to go and get their equipment serviced. Again, the best way to go about this is by going through the bikeshop itself. If you are lucky enough to spark a bikeshop’s interest, sponsorship will most likely come in the form of product, service and discounts. Not cash. The most likely scenario is that you’ll get a bike at a wholesale price and possibly get deferred payment terms. You also might get good discount prices on product in the store and free service.

The next level up from this type of sponsorship arrangement is by showing some serious talent and commitment and getting picked up by a state development program (VIS, NSWIS, etc). That’s not the only path available however. There are squads that do the National Series races who are always looking for good riders. This is when results become more important. You had better be cleaning up the local club scene if you want to be on one of these or have some good connections, because this is getting into some serious racing.

What can you do to add value for your sponsors?

Start an interesting blog and contribute to other blogs, get lots of twitter followers, help your local cycling club, host group rides, be active in the cycling community, set a good example and the best cyclist you can be. Anything you can do to benefit the cycling community reflects positively on your sponsor. Remember, sponsorship does not mean “free stuff”. You have to work for your sponsors. You do not provide value through your mere existence. When you begin to inspire, entertain, inform and assist, you will then be giving your sponsors a return on their investment.

A few local athletes I can think of off the top of my head who represent their sponsors wonderfully:  Bridie O’Donnel, Jono Lovelock, Rachel NeylanAdam Phelan, Drew GinnLisa Jacobs, are just a few of them. Cameron Meyer has been doing an incredible job at using social media to his advantage. On facebook and twitter he’s been posting these awesome behind the scenes videos of the Berlin Six Day him and Leigh Howard just got second place in. If he keeps this up he’ll be making cycling reporters redundant.

Take it from these guys. All of them are talented athletes who aren’t being forced to do any of this. However, what they do well is represent their sponsors well and make themselves more marketable in the process. They simply get what it’s all about.