Basso continues in Armstrong's footsteps

Basso adjusts to Discovery Channel

Basso adjusts to Discovery Channel (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Sponsorship deal with American sportswear firm

Ivan Basso has agreed to help promote Nike sportswear for the next two years. The 29 year-old Italian signed a contract estimated at 1.5 million per year for 2007 and 2008, which will see him in gear by the American firm both on and off the bike; a lot like his ex-rival, Lance Armstrong.

Basso signed for Armstrong's former team Discovery Channel this last November and has since grown even closer to the Texan. By linking himself with Nike he becomes only the fourth member on the team to have a personal sponsorship agreement with the colossal sports company; joining George Hincapie, Tom Danielson and other new-signing, Levi Leipheimer.

Basso has renounced his personal sponsors of Sidi and Fuerteventura to make the deal happen with Nike, although he, like the rest of the Discovery Channel team members are tied to an eyewear contract with Rudy Project.

"Basso is an exciting rider; with lots of appeal," said Margie Wargo of Nike to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "They know him in Italy, but also in America for being Lance's only adversary in two editions of the Tour de France. That created a great connection between him and Armstrong and a sponsorship collaboration that we were excited to have."

Part of this agreement will have Basso in Armstrong's signature gear, marked "10/2" (for the date he was diagnosed with cancer 2 October, 1996). It is possible that the stakes of the sponsorship would rise, even to include a specific Basso line of gear, if he is to win the 2007 Tour. The 2006 Giro d'Italia champion would could even have his 1.5 million contract rise to 2 million; based on extra in come from image rights and relatives that would follow from a Tour win.

"It is will be our aim for catalogue and internet publicity," continued Wargo on the planned immediate use of Basso's image. "For now we don't see a promotional campaign or line of sportswear dedicated to him, but that will depend on how the Tour goes."

It is up to Basso to make the best out of this 2007 season; after a 2006 that included an extreme high (Giro win) and extreme low (Operación Puerto), he is ready to try to move forward. After spending the winter in Italy (New Year’s at the house of Michele Bartoli), Basso will return to the USA for the team's training camp in Solvang, California, from 22 January to 3 February. Then he is expected to make his season debut in the Tour of California, starting 18 February and running to 25 February.

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