Companies that sponsored cycling teams in the past thought of their investments as “rolling billboards.” Particularly for the road racing disciplines, cyclists would wear their logo-covered jerseys and shorts in training and commuting as well as while racing, in theory increasing the likelihood that a customer – even one not interested in biking – would recognize the logo when seeing it in another context. Marketing people speak of “touches” – maximizing the tiny, maybe even subliminal, engagements of your brand with your potential customer.
At Averica, we tried to look at the exposure with a broader view. The audience for the local races is limited, the web exposure of the team is largely within the cycling community, and even the national championships this weekend will get an online audience of tens of thousands. Hearing “Here comes ______ of Team Averica!” from one of the announcers would be great, but will it bring in a new client? Possible, but not likely.
The value in our sponsorship comes from three aspects of branding:
- Representing a corporate attitude and personality. Let’s face it, a science
company can seem pretty dull. What if Averica were about more than just excellence in lab work? Team Averica and Back Bay Cycling Club proposed a program that includes outreach to beginning and young cyclists, development for three racers on the edge of a breakthrough, and involvement with a sport with a rising profile. There’s an ethical component too: women’s sports are often underfunded when compared to men’s. We wanted to put some money and effort where it would have the most impact. These are essentially personal reasons for our sponsorship, and they reflect our personality. By displaying more than just our lab focus, we can round out our image.
- Representing a corporate image. Our branding ties into our speed, teamwork, and agility. Scientists work hard to get ahead in a tough field. That’s why Amgen, Omega Pharma, United Healthcare, and other life sciences corporations are big sponsors of cycling. Bicycle technology and engineering makes racing machines as intricate and expensive as an HPLC system. These ideas mesh with how we think of ourselves, and we want them to have a sustained impact on our image and visibility.
- The “cool factor.” If media have successfully branded the Tour de France as the hardest sporting event on the planet, cyclocross is kind of “hard, fast, crazy, and fun”. Colors are brighter, tattoos more visible, and events more… different? (How about “The Ice Weasels Cometh”). We’re a lab. We sometimes need a little cool factor.
Cyclocross doesn’t have the deadly seriousness that road bike racing has – remember Lance Armstrong? But – and this is hard to make clear in a blog post – we’ve noticed that women’s racing has a distinct personality. There’s a tangible camaraderie, a lot of smiling and laughing, and emotion combined with the race intensity. We learned by showing up at the events that there’s a lot of fun coupled with the toughness of racing. There’s community. While we can’t exactly build this into our cut sheets that detail our laboratory capabilities, we can bring in a little of that personality in the pictures we use.