Cannondale-Drapac announces EF Education First as 2018 title sponsor

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Just two weeks after alerting its riders and staff that they were released from their contracts, Slipstream Sports, the management company behind the Cannondale-Drapac WorldTour team, announced Saturday that it had secured a title partner for 2018 in EF Education First, a family-owned international education company founded in 1965 in Lund, Sweden.

With a focus on language, academics, educational travel, and cultural experience, EF Education First will become the title sponsor of the American-registered squad in 2018, and will eventually become majority owner of Slipstream Sports.

The squad will be referred to as Team EF Education First-Drapac powered by Cannondale.

Colombian Rigoberto Uran, second at the Tour de France in July, will remain on the team’s roster, as will many of the team’s contracted riders.

“We didn’t lose any more riders than most teams lose in a normal transfer season,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “While I’m not in a position to comment on the full make-up of our squad for 2018, I’m excited to share plenty of contract news in the coming weeks.”

EF Education First’s mission statement is to “make the world a better place by uniting people across borders.”

Headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland, the company has 539 schools in 54 countries, with 46,500 employees — 22,000 full-time office staff, 11,500 full-time faculty, and 13,000 part-time teachers. The company is privately held by founder Bertil Hult and his family.

Vaughters had reached out to EF a few times in recent years, but it was an introduction from former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, an avid cyclist and longtime supporter of the American squad, to Philip Hult, the co-chairman of EF Education First, and Edward Hult, EF Education First’s CEO North America, that helped bring the deal together.

The Hult family was particularly impressed by the #SaveArgyle crowdfunding campaign launched immediately after Slipstream announced it was facing a sponsorship deficit for 2018.

“We are honored to begin working alongside Slipstream Sports, Cannondale, Drapac, and all of the wonderful partners at Slipstream Sports to keep our cyclists riding into 2018 and for years to come,” said Edward Hult, CEO North America, EF Education First. “We were inspired to step in and become the team’s title partner and will become majority partner after learning about the #SaveArgyle campaign and witnessing the incredible outpouring of support from fans around the world.

“We have been moved by the powerful way that cycling unites people of diverse backgrounds in a peaceful, fun, and friendly way to achieve extraordinary athletic feats. It aligns perfectly with EF’s mission of opening the world through education and our commitment to bringing different cultures together.”

Former US Secretary of State and past presidential candidate John Kerry at the Tour de France, July 16 2017. Photo: Shane Stokes.

Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters described EF Education First as “the perfect partner” alongside the “whole athlete” focus embraced by Drapac Group owner and chairman Michael Drapac,

“Drapac’s focus is athlete education, athletes being healthy and whole, having options in life,” Vaughters said. “That’s what these guys at EF are all about. Education is what they do. They’re about breaking down cultural barriers and teaching people how to communicate. It’s a sponsor that feels socially relevant in this day as the world becomes increasingly global and communication among cultures becomes more critical. I think it also matches the ethos and the goofy nerdiness of Slipstream Sports. The guys at EF are goofy super nerds like Doug [Ellis] and I are. I couldn’t ask for a better fit.

Vaughters also credited the team’s many fans for stepping up and supporting the squad through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, which raised over $538,365 USD, via 4415 backers, as of Friday night.

“This partnership would not have come off without the fan support,” Vaughters added. “That groundswell showed a level of engagement that enticed potential sponsors to step forward. The world we live in is all about engagement. It’s not about pure numbers. It’s about ‘are you really reaching your audience?’ and our crowdfunding proved that our fans are engaged — engaged all the way into their wallets. That’s incredibly special and humbling. That demonstrated to the world that this team is an entity that people love and support. We could not have gotten this deal had our fans not mobilized the way they did.”

In a press release, the team issued a list of questions and answers with Vaughters, presented below.

Q: How did the connection with EF Education First come about?
A: I reached out to Philip and Edward Hult, who along with their father Bertil, privately own EF, several times in the last few years. Based on what I knew about EF, I thought they would be a great fit alongside our other sponsors – and I’m happy that the more I learn about EF and the people behind this organization, the better and better the fit seems. When EF learned about the #SaveArgyle campaign from a colleague, they decided to dig a little deeper. They weren’t very familiar with the world of professional cycling, but all the details they unearthed impressed them. They discovered clear overlap between our story and mission and their own, and things have unfolded from there.

Q: What are the terms of the deal with EF Education First?
A: Because this deal extends beyond traditional sponsorship, the terms of the deal are fluid. For now, I can say that we’ve agreed to terms for the next several years and that both Slipstream Sports and EF see this as a long-term partnership.

Q: Slipstream Sports has always been a low-budget squad. Will this change?
A: That’s the idea over the long-term. Next year, our operating budget will be similar to what it has been for the last several years.

Q: You released riders and staff from contracts two weeks ago and then recently said all 2018 contracts will be honored. Did you lose anyone in those two weeks?
A: We didn’t lose any more riders than most teams lose in a normal transfer season. While I’m not in a position to comment on the full make-up of our squad for 2018, I’m excited to share plenty of contract news in the coming weeks.

Q: Is Rigoberto Uran staying with the team?
A: Yes. His three-year deal stands – as does his goal to win the Tour while in argyle.

Q: You said the the fans ‘saved argyle.’ Is that true?
A: Absolutely. The ways our fans mobilized was a major attraction to EF. I cannot thank our fans enough for helping us secure this deal.

Q: What will happen with the crowdfund donations?
A: Given the feedback we’ve received from our backers, we will be using this money in 2018. We’re exploring several different options as to where these funds can best be used to bolster our efforts next season, as well as funding post-career rider education, and we look forward to communicating this with everyone when decisions have been finalized.

Q: Is the Indiegogo campaign still open for business — and if so, why?
A: Yes, our crowdfunding campaign is still online and active. While our needs have changed with EF coming aboard, this campaign offers #GreenArgle fans the opportunity to support this team. If you want in, we want you. Get involved here.

Q: Will I still get my #SaveArgyle mug?
A:Yes, yes. You will still get your #SaveArgye mug – and we’re delivering more than the promised perks, so stay tuned for that news.

For more information on EF Education First, visit their website, Facebook page, Instagram account, or Twitter account.

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