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by Shane Stokes
July 18, 2017
Photography by Cor Vos
LE PUY-EN-VELAY, France (CT) – Having earlier made clear that it wants to secure a new title sponsor and step up its budget to be more in line with other WorldTour teams, the Cannondale-Drapac squad appears to be moving closer to that objective.
Speaking on the Tour de France’s second rest day on Monday, team CEO Jonathan Vaughters said that there were two possible leads being followed.
“We have got a couple of super-promising conversations going on now,” he told CyclingTips. “One with an American company, one with a European company. Fingers crossed that next year this team will have some great financial backing behind it.”
Asked as to when confirmation of an agreement could come, he wasn’t sure on the timeline. “It is hard to tell,” he stated. “Large companies don’t necessary function on the timeline that we would like them to in cycling.”
The team has had a strong Tour de France, with Rigoberto Uran winning stage nine, netting second on stage 12 and currently sitting fourth overall. The Colombian had a sit-down-interview with CyclingTips on Monday and was upbeat about his chances, saying that anything was possible in terms of the final yellow jersey.
CyclingTips suggested to Vaughters that a strong final result in the Tour could help translate the current sponsorship talks into a final agreement.
“It is a funny thing with that,” he replied. “With the European company that we are talking to, yes, it would help. With the American company, I feel like to them it is more about the image of the team, the playful nature of the team, the media impact that we have.
“We may be the smallest budget team in the WorldTour, but our media impact is very outsized compared to what our budget is. That is the sort of thing that is really attractive to the American sponsors, that we are a very efficient marketing vehicle to them.”
The team has considerably ramped up its social media presence in the past couple of seasons, increasing engagement with fans and also increasing the number and quality of its media releases. That appears to be paying off.
In fact, Vaughters says that the team’s media impact and image is perhaps more important than its results.
“It is funny, because people assume that results correspond to sponsorship dollars or whatever. But normally speaking that is not true,” he said. “Heck, the biggest budget team in the world when they first started, Sky, didn’t have any results at first. They just started from scratch and boom, they were the biggest budget team in the world, right out of the pipe.
“It is more about your ability to convey the marketing platform that cycling provides. We spend probably 98 percent of our sponsorship sales efforts convincing people that cycling is a good buy. The last two percent is saying, ‘oh yeah, and by the way, you should back our team.’
“But the first 98 percent is convincing them that cycling as a general theme is a good thing to invest in.”