Peter Sagan wants to improve your home life
Although somewhat on the wane as a rider, Peter Sagan still has enduring marketing appeal. He’s headlined multiple campaigns for Specialized, and attracted endorsement deals for everything from big sunglasses (“I can see everything I need to!”) to Jerusalem artichoke extract (Never Forget).
From a marketing perspective, Peter Sagan has been the most attractive athlete in the sport for a number of years. In 2020, according to Cyclingnews, he was cycling’s top earner with an income of around €5.5 million (US$6.55 million) – an amount that incorporates his salary from Bora-Hansgrohe as well as personal endorsement deals.
Specialized, for example, is widely assumed to have a personal deal with the Slovak star – although the brand declined to comment on questions from CyclingTips, citing athlete confidentiality – while 100% sunglasses are almost synonymous with Sagan.
Sagan’s social media presence – which includes over 1.8 million followers on Instagram – can put a brand’s products in front of a whole lot of eyeballs. A single viral Peter Sagan Moment in 2018 was estimated by one sports marketing firm to have generated over US$330,000 of value for his sponsors, as CyclingTips reported.
And when you multiply that out over all of the Peter Sagan Moments in a season, it’s clear there’s money to be made.
Now, expensive bikes and enormous sunglasses are one thing, and advertising these to cyclists is preaching to the choir. But it’s the non-endemic brands that align with Sagan that I, dear reader, find vastly more interesting.
The German homeware brands that sponsor Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team have been particularly creative in capitalising on the Slovakian’s fame. In the process, they’ve unleashed some of the most arresting brand synergies since Tom Boonen had a pillow.
Bora – a cookware specialist – has been involved in cycling since 2015, and yesterday released its latest colourful Peter Sagan-starring advertisement for a campaign titled “Not Only For Rockstars”. (Peter Sagan is, for whatever it’s worth, not even a rockstar – that Grease clip aside. But sure.)
In this one-minute spot, Sagan wears headphones and a leather jacket, shreds a town bike down a hill in Monaco to a guitar store, buys a banjolele and butchers John Denver. It is Peak Sagan, following all the familiar beats of his past work: bad boy image > stunt-riding > WTF moment > fade to black.
It’s not immediately clear what it is that Bora’s trying to sell – I thought it was a waffle iron; it’s actually a futuristic extractor fan – but regardless, Bora delivers on the promise of a bit of bicycle-adjacent weirdness that gets the people going.
Bora isn’t the only German homeware brand to have put Sagan’s celebrity to use. Hansgrohe, the luxury sanitary fittings company that has co-sponsored his team since 2017, knows that star power sells showers.
Hansgrohe’s marketing nous is vast and varied. The company knows its way around a hashtag – like the Zoolander-esque #MeetTheBeautyOfWater – but the real high water mark of its sponsorship was arguably a Peter Sagan-branded handshower (limited release, now out of stock 😢).
The 2019 ‘Shower Like a Pro’ campaign had its own peculiar charms; the less said about 2018’s ‘A daily dose of energy’ the better, although at least there’s some symmetry in that it’s a shower ad that makes you feel like you need a shower after watching it.
In 2020, despite Sagan’s relative lack of results being a bit of a cold shower, the Slovak and his teammate Emanuel Buchmann were called on to help showcase Hansgrohe’s PowderRain feature in a campaign which included the following amazing press release quote:
Showering is relaxing, showering is refreshing. This we all know. But hansgrohe wants to take it a step further.
This seamlessly segued into a steamy photoset of cyclists enjoying their #MyRelaxingMoment, along with quotes that certainly never happened:
Regardless of how silly it absolutely all is, the fact that Bora and Hansgrohe have seen fit to spend millions of euro on sponsoring a cycling team – and let Peter Sagan fly his freak flag in the process – is worth a moment’s pause. Sponsorship is not philanthropy; at this scale, it needs to make a sound financial argument.
While the exact return is necessarily opaque, there are some hefty clues to how lucrative Peter Sagan is for the brands that align with him.
In late 2020, Will Bruckbauer, founder and CEO of Bora, announced a lengthy sponsorship extension which will see the cookware company in the sport until at least 2024. “For Bora, the sponsorship was quite the windfall from the very beginning,” he said. “We have been conducting regular monitoring since 2015 and have clearly noticed that brand awareness has multiplied, that we are growing much faster and stronger in markets with a connection to cycling, and that the group of people interested in cycling in particular has a much clearer picture of Bora and our products.”
The same applies to Hansgrohe, who will be handing out teal boardshorts and creeping on showering cyclists for another four seasons. The company’s CEO described it as an “incredibly successful partnership” (the team sponsorship, not the showering cyclists + teal boardshorts), saying that “the positive effects on our brand and our consistently pleasant cooperation with the team to this day are factors that have undoubtedly confirmed our decision.”
Although Sagan’s sporting dominance may not be what it was, and younger competitors with similar strengths have risen, the enigmatic Slovak remains the sport’s most marketable figure. And if a company hitching its fancy cooktop extractor to his wagon makes a sound financial argument, then it’s a win for cycling. The same goes for Remco and Pizza Hut, Richard Mille’s ugly watches, Ineos’ petrochemicals and derivative 4WDs, and the human rights-flouting Bahrain and United Arab Emirates.
OK, perhaps not all of those.
But in this complicated world, at least you can buy a sensual shower head and live your best life, and in the process be a little bit more like cycling’s greatest entertainer.