The Giant-Shimano team has secured a four-year sponsorship deal with the German cosmetics and shampoo company Alpecin, securing the long-term future of the team. From 2015 the WorldTour outfit will be known as Team Giant-Alpecin with the women's team to be known as Liv-Plantur. The arrival of Alpecin was first broken by the De Telegraaf newspaper in the Netherlands and quickly confirmed by the team.
There is a strong possibility that the teams' registration will be transferred from the Netherlands to Germany. However, Iwan Spekenbrink is expected to continue to own the team and the UCI WorldTour licence.
The arrival of a major German sponsor is a sign of growing interest in professional cycling in Germany after the Jan Ullrich, Team Telekom and wider doping scandals of the last decade. De Telegraaf also reported that the German television network ARD could resume live coverage of the Tour de France in part due to the success of the team’s sprinter Marcel Kittel who has won eight stages in the last two editions of the French Grand Tour. The organisers of the Tour, ASO, have also been approached about a German Grand Départ within the next four years, with Berlin the most likely location.
Kittel welcomed the arrival of Alpecin.
“We have all dreamt about this for a long time. Thanks to the commitment of Alpecin, Germany moves further towards the centre of attention in global cycling. This message can boost public interest in Germany even more”, he said in an statement from the team. ”A current poll of ARD [the consortium of public broadcasters in Germany] shows that by now more than 50 percent of Germans are hoping for a return of the Tour de France to the public service live-broadcast.”
'Doping for your hair'
Alpecin is manufacturer of a boutique shampoo which contains caffeine to reportedly stimulate hair growth at the roots, and has an annual turnover of over €200 million. Alpecin's products are available in more than forty countries and is said to be looking to expand its presence in Asia.
The company has been involved with cycling previously, using Jan Ullrich as a spokesperson while its slogan for its product was 'doping for the hair'. However the choice of sponsoring the Giant team was in part decided by the strict anti-doping policy enforced by team manager Iwan Spekenbrink.
“With our performances both last year and during the current season, we have proved that our way of working is the good one. We also want to continue in this way and will be doing so. With the entry of Alpecin we will try to strengthen ourselves, also with the addition of highly-talented young German riders," Spekenbrink said in an official statement confirming the arrival of Alpecin.
“This partnership with Alpecin sends out a strong message, also for global cycling. Our international team gets a German heart.”
"We are working on the implementation of many ideas, such as special talent days or training camps. A cooperation with the German national cycling federation Bund Deutscher Radfahrer could also be a future model to support young German athletes.”
Eduard R. Dörrenberg, the executive director and shareholder of family-run Alpecin explained that the 'Doping for your hair' slogan will not be used with the cycling team.
“There is a clear division here between the sponsoring of a professional cycling team on one hand and a metaphor used purely for advertising for a shampoo on the other, one that evidently improves the performance of the hair root," he said.
"Consumers understand this advertising message, and the German advertising council has approved it. As a consequence of the clear split, the slogan will not be used in connection with our cycling communications. To manipulate your body with the goal to cheat, so to use doping, is strictly prohibited for competitive sportspeople. Since our existence, our company also rejects any sort of fraud."
Long term stability
The announcement of a new long term sponsor for the team ends a period of financial instability that begun with the announcement that Argos was withdrawing its sponsorship of the team at the end of 2013. An American charity was said to be ready to commit to the team before pulling the plug. Bike sponsor Giant became the principal backer for 2014, helping to save the team.
According to De Telegraaf, Spekenbrink was also in talks with multi-national company 3M concerning sponsorship. 3M has sponsored a small Belgian Continental team for two years and is apparently interested in increasing its involvement in the sport.
Team leaders Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb are both under contract with the team until 2016. The team confirmed that key lead out man Team Giant-Shimano is happy to announce that four riders have recently renewed their contracts with the team, with Roy Curvers has also extended his contract along with Bert De Backer, Thierry Hupond and Albert Timmer.