An ode to a minor Italian cycling team’s 38(!) sponsors
Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli team kit: what secrets do you hold?
Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli team kit: what secrets do you hold?
For local team sponsors, the Giro d’Italia is the big show. It’s a three week-long advertising opportunity, putting Italian brands in front of millions of Italian eyeballs – and for smaller ProTeams that score a wildcard entry, it’s where a return on their investment is made.
Compared to the WorldTour behemoths, those smaller ProTeams are run on a slender budget and piece together their paychecks from a bigger pool of lower-paying sponsors. The logo-heavy kit designs that result have almost become a cliché, with dozens of brands jostling for attention on a tiny strained canvas of skin-tight, sweat-wicking polyester.
Perhaps the definitive example of this phenomenon is the Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli squad, which has given a platform to hundreds of riders and dozens of sponsors since its formation in 1996. It’s a place where top riders – like Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa – are discovered, and where local lubricant brands get a taste of the big time.
Minor sponsorship of a minor team is a thankless task. So, to coincide with their umpteenth fruitless breakaway at the Giro d’Italia yesterday, I thought it was time to give Androni’s 38 (!!!) team sponsors their moment in the limelight.
Maybe they’ll be really weird! Maybe they’ll be really dull recruitment firms in an office park outside of Milan! I don’t know, and neither do you – but at least we’ll have some fun along the way.
The big dog on the Androni jersey is a fresh addition to the stable. And – strangely for this team – it’s not even an Italian brand, as much as the way the team pronounces it (“da’rona’oppa”) might suggest otherwise.
Drone Hopper is a Spanish unmanned aerial vehicle firm – yes, that kind of drone. But these are not the little buzzy drones that teenaged perverts use to spy on their neighbours, or even the terrifying death drones that the military uses to kill people from afar. These are “high-capacity aircraft that have been designed as aerial tractors”.
There are a few models in the company’s line-up – compact little cuties with a 20 kg payload, right up to a big boy that can “create solutions to different missions”, if those missions require an enormous orange drone that can lug around 600 kg.
Mostly, what I want you to remember when you see Drone Hopper on a jersey under the Italian sun is “Ah yes, the aerial tractor people, very good”. And then go back to sipping your Aperol spritz.
My guess: sensible shoes.
The reality: off-brand Lego. Or – if I push Google Translate to its giddy limit:
“COMPATIBLE BRICKS WITH KNOWN LEAD BRAND AND SUMMER TOYS MADE IN ITALY
“TOYS PRODUCED AND CERTIFIED IN ITALY WITH THE MAXIMUM ATTENTION TO THE SAFETY OF YOUR CHILDREN.”
Androni Giocattoli has been a specialist in the field of plastic toys since 1974, certified through something called the Toy Safety Institute.
They also have a ‘Girl’ sub-brand of ‘cooking themed games for girls’, because what better time to start reinforcing corrosive gender roles than infancy.
Smash the patriarchy, one off-brand Lego brick at a time.
On the second line of sponsors, we are on more familiar ground: it is an Italian bike brand. The first Italian winner of the Tour de France, Octavio Bottechia, gives the company its name, although does not seem to have been personally involved at any point. After winning the Tour in 1924 and 1925, he died “in a context which is still not clear … a strange accident, probably caused by a still unexplained malaise, struck the 33 years old Ottavio while he was walking the familiar streets where he used to train and still today there are no certainties about it. What is sure is that a great champion died that day.”
In the years since then – the Bottechia website is a bit unclear – the Bottechia brand came to life and has been ridden to famous victories by Greg Lemond (yes, that time trial at that Tour de France), Gianni Motta (1966 Giro d’Italia), and Giuseppe Saronni (1979 Giro d’Italia). And today, that rich heritage continues with a primetime appearance in a boring breakaway at the Giro.
Sidermec has an English translation in its logo, so I’m not totally clueless on this one. Sidermec is “working and sale tinplate”.
Do I know what that means? I do not.
Their website expands a little more:
“We are able to cover requests from all metal packaging sectors : food, aerosols, capsules, crown caps, general lines, fancy boxes but also from different sectors such as electronics , the automotive sector and other new or emerging.
Your guess is as good as mine to what a commercial manufacturer of tin “fancy boxes” gets out of a cycling sponsorship arrangement, but I’m happy for all parties.
The team shares a sponsor with the Giro d’Italia here – the official water partner. Is it just any water? It is not. It is “the lightest water in Europe”, “on the top step of the European podium in terms of lightness”, “with only 14 mg/l of fixed residue.”
It has made me rethink everything I thought I knew about bottled water.
Work Service Group
I badly wish I could tell you everything you want to know about Work Service Group/Work Group Service, but alas, their website, it is broken:
The Androni sponsorship sales team crossed borders again for this one, seeking out the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha – the benchmark for higher education in the Spanish Castilian-La Mancha community. This university was founded in 1985 and now has four campuses, as well as a thriving online offering.
Their website is full of happy young people with happy young minds yearning for knowledge.
I don’t know why they sponsor an Italian cycling team.
OMZ Industria 4.0
We’re down to the third line on the team sponsorship page, and we’ve hit another snag: there isn’t even a hyperlink for the mysterious OMZ. A cursory rustle around on the internet suggests that it might be an industrial washing machine manufacturer which is “close to the customer in every part of the globe … whether using containers or using our vans, we take our know-how everywhere, quickly and efficiently.”
Then again, the logo doesn’t match, so I’m a bit in the dark on this. I do like the lingering mystery around it, though.
We’re back in Spain, folks. And this time it’s not drones or education – it’s “a leader in the manufacture of products for agriculture”, “mainly in the range of agronutrients, such as organic fertilizer, humic acids, fulvic acids, amino acids, chelated microelements, biostimulants, soluble NPK, etc…”
The closing etcetera on the end is particularly intriguing to me.
Purely speculating, but I wonder if this partnership was a value-add to the team’s new title sponsorship – whether Verdinatur is the fertiliser that you load into your Drone Hopper aerial tractor, mix it with some Lauretana, etc …
It is a wine from “a rich and generous land” with a horse on the bottle. The brand’s flagship wine is the Don Antonio limited edition named after the family patriarch: “big and wrinkled hands, indomitable effort, passion for life. Wine as joy and magical emotion, eyes that smile and support a view at the past but with the heart in the future. He is father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Strong and gentle roots of a family who proudly presents him to the world.”
The sponsor that sounds the most like it should be an Italian swear word is, shockingly, not actually Italian. This time, the team’s enterprising sports marketers have hopped over to Croatia to sign a deal with a manufacturer of “guardrails, safety barriers, noise barriers, metal structures and their parts and various forms of signalization”.
If they want a snappier motto, I am happy to let them have “safety first, not safety worst” for free.
They are from Pisa. They make utensils. Look at them go. Especially him.
With a business name that is an elegant portmanteau of ‘human’ and ‘digest’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a cannibalism-themed restaurant chain. Don’t be fooled, though: they are a recruitment firm based in Milan.
They also have a website that autoplays videos with generic upbeat soundtracks, which is a sin greater than cannibalism in my books. Humangest: where in people, you can invest.
It’s getting dire this far down in the sponsorship list, as Ferrometal’s web 1.0 online presence reveals:
In summary: they buy scrap metal and wish you happy surfing.
We’re back to a brand you might have heard of with Salice, “the Italian sports brand”.
They make helmets and eyewear for cycling and snow sports, and they are on the heads and faces of Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli.
You might know ‘rosti’ as a delicious, crispy potato fritter that is served at a gentrifying café near you, garnished with thinly sliced radishes, witlof, a tangy hollandaise, a sprig of dill, and delicate slivers of gin-cured salmon. The waiter remembers your order without a notepad. The serviettes are not cloth, because we are not too fancy, but they are reassuringly thick and absorbent, crisply folded, excellent hand feel. The cutlery is black. The plates are broad with a blocky rim and a blue glaze, sturdy, timeless.
You stand on your seat, hovering above the plate, your brunch so elegantly illuminated by exposed lightbulbs dangling coyly from the ceiling. You take a bird’s eye view picture with your smartphone, and another to be safe. As your food cools you set to work uploading and tagging your stylish rosti on Instagram with – yes, perfect, perfect – #rostistyle. Later, when you’re counting your likes (disappointingly few; you have, after all, just made the shittest possible social media content) you enviously tap through to see what other #rostistyle content is doing better.
And that’s how you learn the following.
A small portion of the cycling community knows ‘Rosti’ as this team’s kit supplier. Also, for the Giro, they have come to the party with the best socks in the peloton:
TL;DR: I now like two types of rosti.
It is Selle Italia.
Regolo has gone through a rebrand and is now called ‘Silicon’. They make a wide range of promotional products – pencils, drink bottles, umbrellas, hair brushes, and soap dispensers. It is a broad offering, but if I know Silicon – and I think I do – I trust them to nail the details on every last item.
If nothing else, can we agree that this is a strange brand name for a sports supplement company?
Miche is an Italian bike parts manufacturer with more than a hundred years of history under its belt. Way back when, they made frames, but now they have whittled down the product line to wheels, cranksets, bottom brackets, cassettes, pedals, chains, and assorted other small parts. It’s a broad offering which isn’t really competing with the big brands, but they’re a plucky go-getter and I wish them well.
From the logo, I felt certain that this would be a manufacturer of steel-capped workboots, or, perhaps, a very no-nonsense contraceptive. I wasn’t even close.
Anthea is an insurance broker that has a specialised sports division, which prides itself on the “analysis of the risks associated with the particular professional activity carried out by its interlocutors with the consequent transfer of their equity risks to the insurance market.”
Who said insurance wasn’t interesting?
I went into this expecting Y-fronts with hydraulic struts built in, and I was sadly disappointed. BioTex makes the team’s base layers. What a fizzer.
An Italian coffee brand from the foot of the Dolomites; “a community united by a single passion: for coffee.” They have quite a nice website, and a brandname that sounds like an anarchist café.
EME makes TENS machines for dogs or something? Their promotional imagery also makes it clear that their products gives those dogs a creeping, undefinable sense of unease:
Ciclo Promo Components
An Italian cycling distributor with about as many brands on its books as Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli. Truly a match made in heaven.
You probably know about Deda, but just in case you don’t, they’re an Italian handlebar and stem manufacturer that also make wheels. I did not know that last bit until now. Now I do.
Look at us, getting educated together!
It’s a sure sign of a clear mission statement if you need to spend a couple of minutes on a website to figure out what’s going on here. But figure it out I did: they make pads for bike shorts, gloves, and non-medical masks.
The number after 10.
In all seriousness, the website link goes through to Ciclo Promo Components’ website (as listed above), which does not even do them the honour of listing them as a brand on their homepage. A few clicks deeper, if you’re motivated (which I wasn’t, but I’d gotten this far and felt a sense of duty), you can eventually get to a generic Italian bike parts manufacturer with a broad catalogue and a Google-proof name.
A well-known manufacturer of lubes, liquids, greases, and solvents for bicycle use. According to our friends at Ciclo Promo Components, “its products are produced in 12 languages, including Japanese and Chinese.”
I don’t know how you produce a maintenance liquid in Mandarin, but you go, Finish Line. Always the innovators.
There is no link provided to Punto Grafico, presumably because they A) were the designers responsible for wrangling 38 wildly different logos onto this team kit, and B) were too embarrassed about it to want any further association.
This deep into the article, I’m getting a thrill – a weary, delirious thrill, but a thrill nonetheless – whenever there’s a brand name I’ve never heard of, with a logo that guards its secrets closely.
What is Roto? Why is their logo so pragmatic? Is it a chain of roadside churrascarias? Is it a texta manufacturer? Is it a brand of tinea ointment?
It is not those things. It is this:
Sadly, this company has walked away from this pregnant camper van logo and rebranded to Trigano – the Italian market leader in the “motor caravan sector”, with a daily production of “about 20 vehicles”.
Here is a bike-related serving suggestion. They are definitely about to lose balance and fall off that rock.
Quick poll: this logo definitely looks like it says ‘Selflops’, right?
While I found that brand name very funny, I was forced to learn that it’s sadly a double O. Even more sadly, it’s not a belly-flop training academy, but an exercise tracking and performance analysis platform used by the team, as well as the Italian Cycling Federation and the team formerly known as Gazprom-RusVelo.
Back to brands you’ve probably heard of, Stages is a manufacturer of power meters, exercise bikes, and cycle computers.
They are also the manufacturer of Soul Cycle’s hardware, if high octane spin classes with pounding music and relentless positivity are your kinda thing.
Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli’s tireless pursuit of the sponsorship dollar led them to Stepgear, an Italian manufacturer of exercise equipment which seems like it’s directly competing with Stages in at least two categories.
Stepgear’s halo product seems to be ‘The Totem’. Here it is:
This limited edition contraption is a screen with a gradient simulator and wind generator to make your indoor training slightly more realistic (while never really letting you forget that you are inside, with your wheel being mechanically lifted up and down by an expensive metal machine that will be out of date in a matter of months and on the nature strip for council collection some time thereafter.)
You know this one.
But not this. Just for one last curveball, down the bottom of the website on a line of its own, lurks the Swiss sports marketing agency Asteel. They are – surprise – Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli’s marketing firm, and since 2018 have had 1+ winning union.
In better news for Asteel, today marks an exciting milestone: this article, their second winning union.
That, my friends, is that. Thirty-eight brands that you probably never wanted to know about, and can now bore yourself thinking about the next time the Giro has a snoozefest of a stage and the poor riders of Drone Hopper–Androni Giocattoli are sent off the front on a futile mission.
They are doing this for the glory of industrial tin manufacturers. They are doing this for electronic veterinary equipment.
Most specifically, they are doing this to get a contract somewhere else.