What about 'now' for NRS teams and their sponsors?


After the week kicked off with news that the NRS Tour of Toowoomba was joining an increasing list of NRS tours not running in 2016 the discussion around the health of NRS, the situation within Cycling Australia and what the future could hold has been well discussed. RIDE Cycling Review have had feedback from Avanti DS Andrew Christie-Johnston and Mike Turtur and today Pelton Café interviewed State of Matter/MAAP DS Damo Harris.

                                                                         

Now the point of this blog isn’t to add my two cents worth as to what should be done down the track. Those with more experience and much better insight have already provided positive suggestions. What occurred to me today was the very same issue Damo Harris mentions in his interview – in that sponsors of all the NRS teams want a return on investment. Which (to paraphrase) is challenging enough without having races cancelled. Less races means less opportunities for brand exposure – a major (but not sole) crux of sponsorship. So while what could, should and can be done in the future is terrific (and vital) what can NRS teams, here and now, do to salvage something from 2016?

 

My suggestion - start a Masters team. Men’s and women’s. And before the sniggers and ‘no one gives a shit about Masters racing’ start to fly, consider this:

  • In Victoria we have a thriving Victorian Race Series. Masters A is always close to elite men in terms of numbers. There are only a few teams, less after State of Matter/MAAP decided against a Masters team for 2016. And even less teams in the lower grades and in women’s.

  • Most of the NRS team sponsors are looking to hit the very same target market that make up Masters age racers. Additionally plenty of NRS teams now have a car sponsor. I could never consider a Skoda when I was racing elite. But now I work and race Masters, so you better believe they’re on my shopping list. A big tick in hitting key demographics.

  • The VRS is overwhelmingly popular. Each tour boasts in excess of 300 entrants. At least half of those bring along a family member or friend. There are photographers aplenty at each tour and social media is alight in the weeks following. Some of the best brand ‘influencers’ I know on social media are not elite riders. The exposure (and potential to grow it) is enormous.

  • NRS teams already send squads to VRS races. And while I can’t comment on other states it’s commonplace to have interstate teams travel down for them. This means adding a Masters squad is a small hit to the budget, as teams (especially now) were already going to be racing.

  • Racers don’t want (or at least expect) free bikes. And the cost of kitting out half a dozen Masters is considerably less what would have been spent travelling to Toowoomba. Not to suggest NRS teams are flush given these cancellations, but surely there is some budget freed up by not having to travel across the country. I’m certain too most equipment sponsors would be willing to extend team bike deals given the present circumstances. All up the costs (and hassle) of kitting up the veteran members should be minor.

  • Gran fondos. VRS entries pale in comparison to the thousands who attend fondo’s like Peaks Challenge, Amy’s gran fondo, Cadel Evan’s People’s Ride, etc. They are events many masters riders would be planning to do, so why not have them sporting the team kit and getting the sponsors out to an audience size not seen in the NRS. The money spent on bikes and equipment at last year’s Taiwan KOM Challenge and Fall Creek Peaks Challenge were damn impressive. They are the people you want to have thinking of your particular bike brand or car or riding apparel when time comes for their next purchase.

  • The UWCT world championships will be in Perth this year. Plenty of local masters riders will be attending and racing against riders from across the globe. If ever there was a year to have a masters squad 2016 is it.

 

Appreciably this isn’t for every team. Some of the bigger teams have the capacity to minimise the exposure losses from the lost NRS race days by racing overseas. Some will think sending an elite squad to the VRS is enough or see no value in being represented at a gran fondo. Me? I say why not – given all the marketing losses – double down. Show your sponsors you’re able to make lemonade out of lemons with a creative alternative to reaching their KPI’s.

Chosen correctly I have every confidence a masters team will deliver on sponsor exposure and activation as well as team goodwill and support. As now you’ll have all the riding buddies, family, work colleagues and social connections following both the progress of their masters racing friend as well as the elite team. Winning hearts and minds. I witnessed it when I was racing with African Wildlife Safari’s – it happens. It isn’t that hard to achieve. And is a well utilised sales tool. If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain then bring the mountain to Mohammed. Because plans for the NRS and team survival are great, but there needs to be action for the ‘now’.

 

 

(just one of the fields from the Tour of Bright - boasting over 700 entrants each year)