Time is ticking: is Specialized-lululemon’s crowdfunding model sustainable?

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Confirming that the squad will continue next year but that the budget and roster size will depend in part on this weeks’ final push for crowd-funding, the owner of the team currently called Specialized-lululemon, Kristy Scrymgeour, has said that she is hoping for a good response prior to Friday’s deadline.

The team has had a strong season and a superb run in recent weeks, winning the Open de Suède Vårgårda World Cup time trial plus the Open de Suède Vårgårda World Cup road race, and then this week taking stages in both the Holland Ladies’ Tour and the Tour de l’Ardeche.

Scrymgeour sees momentum building and hopes that her riders can take what would be their third consecutive team time trial gold at the world championships later this month.

Before then, though, she is calling on supporters of the team and women’s racing in general to get behind the squad and try to ensure that it has the best possible structure and foundation for 2015.

“We started this crowd funding idea because in July we didn’t have security for the following year,” she told CyclingTips, referring to the change in role for the title sponsors Specialized and lululemon. “We partly did it to raise some attention and to get it out there publicly and we partly did it because definitely we need the funds.

“It has created some good conversations and it has definitely opened up some avenues to talk to sponsors, both for next year and actually more so for the future. These sponsorship talks often take a long time. We also had some very good industry support.”

While Scrymgeour said that enough support has been raised to ensure the team will continue, she stated that there is still a shortfall that needs to be tackled. “The budget is not as a great as we really want it to be, which is why we really need to do one last big push with the crowd-funding. Every little bit helps for us to get the budget to where we need it to be able to run the programme.

“My feeling about women’s cycling is that there are hundreds of thousands of women out there who ride and who are potentially big cycling racing fans. If we can link those two together and build that community around a women’s team and build some excitement around it, it helps us and also helps to grow the sport as well. As a team we really want to bring that community in.”

Launched on July 25th and running until this Friday, the crowd-funding project offers a structure of benefits for those who pledge to support the team.

Called Project X and detailed here, the contribution levels laid out begin with club membership of the project for $10 USD. There is then an incremental scale of benefits, including team caps ($25), t-shirts ($50), ten minute Skype chats with team members ($75), baseball hats and t-shirt combos ($100), personalised race jerseys with supporters’ names on the sleeve ($250), personalised racing kit ($500) and more.

Those able to afford a more significant contribution can do brunch rides with five team members in New York City, a one day sprint clinic with former team member and top women’s sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, rides with former pro George Hincapie and current professional Bernie Eisel or receive a team bike, personalised kit and an invite to a four day team training camp in December.

$1.4 million goes into running a top global international women's cycling team like Specialized-lululemon properly. In most cases, this is one fifteenth of what it takes to run a men's pro-tour team. The funds cover the salaries of 11 riders and six staff, travel and logistics, insurance and fees for a full year.
$1.4 million goes into running a top global international women’s cycling team like Specialized-lululemon properly. In most cases, this is one fifteenth of what it takes to run a men’s pro-tour team. The funds cover the salaries of 11 riders and six staff, travel and logistics, insurance and fees for a full year.

Official sponsorship for brands is also available and come with a number of perks.

Thus far over $80,000 has been raised, but Scrymgeour is hoping that this continues to grow before the end of this week. “It has been great so far – the people who have contributed are really excited about being part of the team,” she said.

“People can contribute what they want. They can go and contribute a dollar if they want…that is okay. You don’t have to buy into one of the perks. But I think that it is a fun thing if you donate 50 dollars you get a t-shirt. So it makes you feel more a part of the team. If you donate 250 you get the team jersey.

“There are various things that people can buy into, including coming to team camp or doing rides with the team. Then some of the men’s peloton like Bernie Eisel and George Hincapie have donated their time as well, if people were interested in that kind of experience.

“So there are a lot of different options. But you can even just go there and contribute five dollars if you like.”

With some of the team’s budget to also come from other sources, Scrymgeour says that the final week of crowd-funding plus other talks will together determine how big the team and the programme will be next season.

“We would be happy if we raised more. Whatever we can get now is really just help us fill that shortfall. We know that we can run the team. We just need to keep topping up the funds in any way we can, and we are being inventive in how we do that.

“The team size is going to be about the same. We have got 11 riders now. We are thinking seriously about making it nine, but it will depend on what happens. With the conversations we have open with potential pro title sponsors, the budget could be brought up and therefore we would make the team twelve or thirteen riders. That would mean we could do a real double programme.

“But if we don’t find that budget, we will probably consolidate and make a nine rider team so everyone on the team could have a really good programme and we would still make sure that we did all the big races.”

Time is ticking

Aside from this weekend’s deadline for crowd funding, Scrymgeour said that conversations will continue with others who could end up backing the team. Fortunately she is in a position where she has been able to talk to her riders and staff and assure them that the team will exist in 2015.

“There are definitely talks that I am having that will continue over the next month or two, but the decision has been taken that the team will be here next season. What we have to do is to decide on the size of the team. My feeling is that if we decide now that the size of the team is going to be nine riders and plan accordingly, that we could bring more riders on the team at a later date if we do happen to bring on a big sponsor.

“Obviously most of the best riders in the world will have secured their teams, but there is always opportunity for other riders who don’t have teams yet.”

Scrymgeour didn’t want to give away what the 2015 roster would be, but she confirmed that many familiar faces would be on board.

“We are really happy with the riders that we have got on the team. We will make sure that we do our contracts with the current members first,” she said. “But we are definitely always interested in looking at new talent and we definitely want to look into a sprinter.

“We haven’t totally decided what the line-up will be. But we are definitely keen about the riders that we have and the core of the team will stay the same.”

For more about Project X and details of the crowdfunding, click here.

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