Lidl, the large European supermarket chain, will become a new sponsor of the Etixx-QuickStep team in 2016 and 2017, with Marcel Kittel expected to join the team if he can convince Giant-Alpecin to terminate his 2016 contract, according to reports in Belgium.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere announced the arrival of Lidl at a special press conference in the presence of Tony Martin and Tom Boonen Wednesday morning. Lidl was officially described as the team’s ‘Fresh food supplier’ during the press conference, with Lefevere confirming the supermarket chain will replace Renson, who recently became a sponsor of the Giant-Alpecin team in 2016. The Lidl logo is likely to appear on the rear of the team’s shorts and on the shoulders of the jersey.
"I am proud and even emotional that I can announce this news. Lidl is perhaps the largest private company that is stepping in cycling. This is not only a good thing for our team, but also for cycling in general," Lefevere said, clearly hoping that Lidl will increase its sponsorship in the future. I terminated the contract with Renson myself, because I had this ambitious project."
Lefevere did not give any news on the possible arrival of Marcel Kittel.
Lidl Belgium Purchasing and Marketing Director Jeroen Bal confirmed that the sponsorship came via Lidl Belgium but suggested other countries could also join the sponsorship. Lidl plan to open its first store in the USA in 2018.
"Team Etixx – Quick-Step Cycling is one of the biggest cycling teams in the world. The motivation for our sponsorship is to use cycling and the team to spread awareness of Lidl as a key supplier for fresh products," Bal said in a statement from the team. "This is primarily a collaboration with Lidl Belgium, but of course we will be offering the possibility to all other countries to join in. Cycling and Team Etixx-Quickstep Cycling are also extremely popular outside of the Belgian borders."
Tony Martin claimed he shops at Lidl and was especially pleased to see a major German-based company invest in professional cycling.
"I'm looking forward to the next year. I'm curious what the future will bring. I think Lidl will be a strong partner, and they will support us really well. I also think we can give back to them, and we will be a good investment like we also are for the current sponsors. I think it will be a nice combination," he said.
"As a German rider I am proud of this partnership with a German company. I shopped there a lot as a child with my parents, and I shop there currently. Having them as a partner is special. The last years have not been so easy in cycling. A world brand like Lidl as a partner in cycling is a really good sign for the sport, and also for German cycling that a German brand has entered the fold. It's a really good moment for us, and I am excited to see what the 2016 season will bring."
The German-based retail chain has 8,000 supermarkets in 23 European countries. Lidl Belgium has been a minor sponsor with the Lotto-Belisol in the past and a sponsor of the Tour of Flanders but seems to have increased its sponsorship in cycling by teaming up with Etixx-QuickStep.