If an Australian multinational company were to jump on board as a primary sponsor of GreenEdge, the chances of it being from the mining sector were greatest, with the resources boom keeping the nation's economy afloat off the back of demand for iron ore, coal and natural gas, coupled with a strong Australian dollar.
Today, Orica was announced as the new naming-rights partner for the WorldTour outfit, which will now be known as Orica GreenEdge for the next three years. Based in Melbourne, the global publicly-listed company boasts around 15 000 employees across 50 countries worldwide. Orica has three arms to their business, all focussed on the mining production process, including explosives, ground stabilisation and chemicals.
Reaction to the "multi-million dollar" investment online was mixed, with many pointing to the negative press Orica has generated due to environmental concerns resulting from recent chemical leaks from plants on the Australian east coast. Others suggested that cycling fans should be pleased with the investment regardless.
GreenEdge to this point has been primarily financed by the highly-successful businessman, Gerry Ryan, to the tune of around $60million. Ryan has interests as varied as caravans, horse racing, wineries and animatronics, and is a long-standing benefactor of Australian cycling.
Cyclingnews spoke to Gerry Ryan at the announcement in Melbourne.
Cyclingnews: Has the GreenEdge sell been tougher or easier than what you had thought?
Gerry Ryan: We always believed it was going to take time. We didn't have a track record and it was only November, or early December that we got a UCI licence and it's pretty hard. It's like going out and selling insurance, trying to know when you're going to collect. From the outset I said it was going to take three years to get the team up and running and financially viable. This partnership with Orica is certainly a big milestone, one that we didn't expect to achieve this early. Orica are an iconic Australian company, Australian business.
Is there a reason why the exact investment is being kept confidential?
GR: Most sporting sponsorship values are kept confidential and we're still in talks with other partners at lower levels. It's for commercial reasons.
How do you plan to combat the negative press that has followed Orica and their environmental activities?
GR: Orica's been around 145 years. It might be a little blip. I'm aware; I read the papers and the Newcastle issue, that has certainly been blown out of proportion. Regardless, all companies commercially will have issues pop up. It's under new management. We sat down with Ian Smith [Orica CEO] and looked at their values and our values and Orica under Ian's guidance is certainly more aware of the community involvement. They felt that what we're about fitted where they want to fit. They want to become part of the sport and part of the community, and sport is an important part of the community.
Why do you believe that Orica provide such a good fit and synergy with GreenEdge?
GR: They're in 100 countries around the world – 80 per cent of their business is international. Only probably 10 per cent of our racing is in Australia. We needed a company that was global because then they can get the value globally. Being an Australian company and being based here in Melbourne is an even better fit because we can work with their management people to get the best for GreenEdge and Orica.
How important for GreenEdge was it to secure an Australian-based sponsor?
GR: It was our preference but at the end of the day, commercially, we were talking to an Asian company and we were talking to a European company... we wanted the link back to Australia.
A lot of teams at a local, domestic level while not struggling for product sponsorship, are struggling for cash sponsorship – do you think this will encourage other companies to invest in the sport?
GR: First of all this is a great endorsement for GreenEdge. It gives us confidence and some pride that Ian Smith and his team at Orica saw fit that we were a vehicle to work with them in terms of them achieving their outcomes with the community. Secondly it gives confidence to other people we're talking to in terms of minor sponsors. And thirdly it's a great endorsement for cycling. We had Klaus [Mueller, Cycling Australia President] here today because he realised what an important endorsement it is. Other companies will look at cycling.
How close are you to signing more second tier sponsors?
GR: We're now doing that, because first we wanted to fill the title sponsor. We're in negotiations. My aim is for our sponsorship completed for next season.
Does that then allow you to pull back in terms of your own investment? Is that something that you're looking to do?
GR: I'm committed. As I've always said, I'll top up any budget shortfalls. When you talk about investment it's not just financial, it's time and resources. My financial responsibility is lessened as we bring more people on.