A recent article by the BBC highlighted the relationship between top athletes and the manufacturers who sponsor them. In particular, the BBC looked at how French Olympic mountain bike champion Julien Absalon's relationship with Orbea had benefited the bike company.
Orbea, located in Mallabia in Spanish Basque country, has produced bikes since the 1930s after starting out as a gun manufacturer in 1840. For the past six years, the company has thrown its hat into the pro mountain biking industry.
Absalon has been Orbea's top signing and winning the Beijing Olympics on an Orbea only helped the company establish its brand in international mountain biking. Absalon's own reputation in mountain biking's history is secure with 17 World Cups to his name and two Olympic gold medals. As the results of the Cyclingnews Reader Poll indicated last week, Absalon is also a favorite among mountain bike fans.
Going into the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Absalon, 30, has his sights set again on gold. The combination of man and machine has to be just right for an athlete to win gold at the Olympics.
"Both things are important - man and machine but Julien is a machine," said Ixio Barandiaran, Absalon's team manager to the BBC.
Orbea's Marketing Manager Joseba Arizaga thinks that Absalon's bike will help play an important role come race day. "It could be a minimum advantage, but at the end of the day the differences between these top level riders is so small that whatever improvement you could provide to the rider - is very important," he said.
The relationship may be paying off for Orbea, which has 200 employees and makes 600 bikes per day. Since signing Absalon in 2005, company sales have gone from 48.5 million euros to 60 million euros in 2009. However, it's impossible to quantify how much of that growth is due to Absalon.
By racing and winning on Orbea bikes, Absalon's endorsement of the Orbea brand give consumers confidence in the product, especially when they learn that he has played a role in product development of the bikes he races.
And even for those who can't afford to buy a bike like Absalon's, time and further development result in the top technology eventually trickling down to more affordable models of bikes.
The following video is posted with permission from the BBC.
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