By invitation of the Ontario Cycling Association, Laird Knight, president and CEO of Granny Gear Productions, divulged key elements to winning cycling-related sponsorships to a captivated audience at the OCA's annual autumn meeting. With a vision to raise the quality of events nationwide, the OCA's executive director, Steve Merker, sought to convene race promoters, team managers and racers to learn through Knight's experience as promoter of some of mountain biking's largest and most prestigious events.
“Laird has demonstrated leadership on many fronts over the years,” said Merker. “With his innovative 24-hour mountain biking series and his creative sponsorship programs, there was no doubt that Laird was the guy we wanted talk to our cycling community. Our hope is that the excellent presentation Laird gave will rub off on our membership, creating larger, more fun and financially self-sustaining events in Ontario.”
The OCA receives 15-20 percent of its annual budget in government funding and to make up the difference, promoters, teams and athletes must find alternate sources of revenue. Sponsorship becomes a tool for cycling and its sponsors since both parties benefit from the relationship. According to Knight, cycling offers its sponsors an extremely valuable demographic with respect to household income, education, leadership, and buying power.
“Cycling is currently the sweetest and most un-picked fruit of the sports marketing world," Knight says. "As the cycling world becomes more sophisticated and effective in packaging sponsorships, and brand managers and their ad agencies gain awareness of the untapped potential, we will be able to create huge sources of funding for our sport and tremendous branding opportunities for our sponsors.” Knight said. “I was very impressed with the OCA's membership. Their passion and interest in forwarding the sport of cycling in Canada was really inspiring to me.”
Knight adds that the degree to which cyclists appreciate and value sponsors gets translated into brand loyalty and bottom line sales. 85 percent of Granny Gear's surveyed participants expressed an inclination to buy sponsor products and recommend sponsors' products to a friend. Other participants went right ahead and exercised their purchasing power, as was the case for the Honda Motor Company in their debut of the Honda Element at The Honda 24 Hours of Moab. Afterwards, several participants enthusiastically announced their purchase of new Honda Elements in e-mails to Granny Gear.
Cycling events provide an opportunity for sponsors to build an emotional bond with their customers and inspire future support for their product or service. The boundless potential to grow cycling exists in the imaginative strategies dreamed up by entrepreneurial event promoters. Tack on cycling's reputation for prestige, sportsmanship, teamwork, and above all, fun, and the value to sponsors gets fortified every time a cyclist steps to the start line of a new race.
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