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There are a few questions I am often asked about the mechanics of running a professional cycling team. Before I dive into the intense block of Pro Tour races that make up the American spring and summer, I’d like to answer those and clear up a few misconceptions. Obviously these answers are based on my experiences; running a WorldTour men’s team is probably a lot different. For starters, my secretary would be jotting down these answers with a Montblanc pen instead of me pecking away on an iPhone while I log more hours on my CycleOps. Oh, to live the dream.
Lindsay Bayer / Images: Brett Rothmeyer
What’s it like to run a team?
Probably similar to how you feel about your job. Sometimes it’s rewarding and fun. Sometimes I want to sell the riders on eBay and run screaming from the sport. These extremes can happen by noon on the same day. Like any job, we grit it out through the stressful parts and relish the good ones. The last time a rider told me her frame was cracked, I laid down in the road, moaned into my hands for 30 seconds, and then got up and handled things. That’s basically my management style in a nutshell.
RELATED: Check out Lindsay’s other installments of ‘Unvarnished Tales’ here.
How do you get sponsors?
Hard work, compelling marketing materials, a lot of persistence, a willingness to be shot down, a fierce belief in the project, and some luck. Landing a title sponsor was the hardest part. I took a lot of rejection for a few months, more than I’ve ever faced in my life and sometimes after truly believing that the deal was already made. It felt like giving birth, taking the kid out into the world, and having strangers tell you your baby is ugly. It hurt and sometimes we wanted to give up. But Jono and I really felt like we could do something great, so we kept going until we found a wonderful sponsor who felt the same way. Thanks, Hagens Berman!
Industry sponsors are also a tough sell because there are a lot of riders and teams competing for limited resources. Sometimes I’m reminded that just because the team is a big deal to me doesn’t mean anybody else has to give a shit. Every sponsor that has come on board has to believe in what we are selling on and off the bike, and it’s my job to invent and deliver that. Podiums are great, but that’s not usually enough to get a company to give us money or products. Each conversation with a potential sponsor is about understanding their goals and figuring out if we can help them get there in a way that works for them and the team.
What does it cost to get my logo on the jersey?
It depends. First off, I’m a big believer that whoever says the first number in a negotiation loses, so when you ask this, I’m not going to name an amount. It’s partly because there isn’t an answer: if you are my mom, the response might be $100 because HI MOM. If you are Bill Gates, my answer would include a few more zeroes and commas.
The thing I try to explain to sponsors is that the whole logo on the kit thing is an old school formula. Putting your logo on my back is probably not going to drive sales your way; what will work is having our riders talk about and engage with your brand in ways that are meaningful to your consumers. Hagens Berman doesn’t sponsor us because they’re hoping a logo on a kit is going to get them more class action lawsuits; they sponsor us because it’s important to their organization to support athletes who might otherwise not get the same opportunities (women, U23 riders). Therefore my goal is to share their story of generous philanthropy and make it clear just how meaningful and critical their support is to the livelihood of our team and the sport as a whole.
On the other hand, FFWD wants us to show how fast, aero, and awesome their wheels are, so the riders are all over social media ripping it up on their branded wheels talking about their great riding experiences.
In short, the sponsor relationship only delivers value if we work together to figure out a meaningful strategy and then put it into place. I’ll gladly sell you a spot on my shirt, but your money is better spent in a plan that will bring you real return on investment.
Either way, I’m going to get you to say a number first.
You must get so much free stuff!
I never thought women’s cycling would make me rich and famous, and unsurprisingly that has proven true. From what I can tell, the money in this sport is concentrated in very small places at the top of the sport mostly in the hands of guys in Europe. I am not a man and I am not in Europe. I do have a lot of really cool Oakleys, though, and I get excited every time I see my neon green team Vittorias. And you’re reading my column right now. So maybe fame and fortune is relative.
Can I ride for your team?
Don’t call us; we’ll call you. Just kidding. Sort of. To be honest, it’s extremely unlikely that we’re going to hire a rider that has been entirely off our radar. The best way to get a shot on a pro team is to go to pro-level races, ride hard, take smart chances, be friendly and introduce yourself to riders and directors in a way that makes you seem sane, and then contact directors to ask for an opportunity to guest ride. Don’t lead with talking about your goals; my business plan doesn’t include making your dreams come true. Tell me why you will be an asset to my team and then we can talk.
Do you sell shirts/kits/hats/socks/bottles/riders?
Yes! We just launched our 2017 web store of kits and shirts this week. Of course I want you to buy our stuff, but I’ll even be happy if you support any other team. The industry needs loyal, excited fans backing riders and teams. The bike path doesn’t need another dude in a Postal Service kit either.
Check out the Hagens Berman / Supermint shop, supermintusa.cc, here!
Can I give you a pile of money with no strings attached?
Dude, I wish somebody would ask this.