Velon, a business association between 11 WorldTour teams, and Tour de Suisse owners InfrontRingier have agreed to a five-year revenue-sharing deal with the aim at elevating the race to a "truly international sporting event", they announced today.
In exchange for committing to bring all 11 WorldTour teams along with their top riders to the Tour de Suisse through 2020, the teams will get revenue sharing for the first time.
"This new partnership with Velon is based on the common believes (sic) of cooperation in professional cycling and maintains the momentum for Velon and its teams as they move towards establishing new revenue streams alongside traditional sponsorships to deliver greater financial stability and security for the teams, their staff and riders," a press release stated.
Velon have been trying to change the dynamic of the economics of cycling by shifting some of the benefits of race organisation to the teams, but it has been a contentious path. The group includes BMC, Cannondale, Lampre-Merida, Lotto-Belisol, Etixx-Quick-Step, Orica-GreenEdge, Giant-Alpecin, LottoNl-Jumbo, Team Sky, Tinkoff and Trek-Segafredo.
In 2012, the teams association AIGCP was close to a revenue-sharing deal with the Giro d'Italia organisers, but the next year, a key supporter of the deal, Michele Acquarone, was fired by RCS Sport over a financial scandal.
The partnership between Velon and the Tour de Suisse will see the teams help market the race and "deliver a stronger, more compelling story", using exclusive live and delayed on-board footage from riders' bikes, in addition to marketing and promotion through teams' social media channels.
Velon last month announced a 10-year agreement with Infront Sports & Media, InfrontRingier's parent company, to deliver live streaming data. Velon tested on-board video live streaming at the Abu Dhabi Tour late last year.
“It’s fantastic to be in partnership with such a historic race in a heartland for cycling. Working with Infront Ringier we hope we can excite the fans more than ever over the next five years," Velon CEO Graham Bartlett said.
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While the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia may generate significant revenue, the amounts gained by the teams with the Tour de Suisse partnership is likely minimal in terms of immediate cash but valuable in terms of political capital. Infront Media & Sports was acquired last year by Wang Jianlin's Wanda Group. Jianlin is China's wealthiest man and one of the few with enough capital to go up against Tour de France owners ASO.
The partnership is one more move in the larger chess game of cycling economics, and will certainly not be the last. The ASO have had a lock on much of the income generated by cycling events for much of the sport's history, and as teams are increasingly struggling for sponsorship dollars they are seeking to improve their lot by seeking a bigger piece of that pie - the creation of Velon was the first step.
The Tour de Suisse is one of two important races used by riders to prepare for the Tour de France, together with ASO's Criterium du Dauphine. The races are both on the WorldTour calendar, but overlap by two days. The ASO has rejected the UCI's WorldTour reforms and said it would not include its races in the WorldTour calendar in 2017, and the battle between ASO and the UCI is still being waged in closed-doors meetings.
The Velon group introduced on-board video footage as one of its first steps to breathe new life into the sport, partnering last year with camera maker GoPro.
The group espoused the introduction of live GPS tracking of each rider as a way to enhance viewing for the fans, but the ASO quickly partnered with Dimension Data to roll out a beta-version of live tracking during the 2015 Tour de France.