Dumb teams have sponsors to bankroll their operating expenses. Smart teams have sponsors to destroy the competition.
This approach was masterminded in the sport of cycling by Lance Armstrong. Lance has 50 ways to win a stage race and at least a dozen come directly from his sponsors. Not only does he drive his team-mates, he harangues his sponsors, pushing them to provide him with innovations to help him dominate.
Armstrong starts each off-season this way: Giro, make me a lighter helmet. Nike, I want new fabric prototypes, Trek, that time trail bike better be 15% faster than last year. Oakley, my optics better kick their optics’ ass. The Texan realized early on that the bigger and more powerful his army, the more weapons he had.
The latest team to take up the Sponsor was Deadly Weapon is Team Garmin. Run by the argyle genius Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin has assembled a collection of sponsors that are on board for far more than writing pay checks. A quick glance at their partnerships and you see the game plan. Like Trek and Armstrong, Sastre and Cervelo, Garmin has the hyper innovation of bike manufacturer Felt. Looking to go mano-a-mano and sunglass-a-sunglass with Lance and Oakley, Garmin just signed up Innovations Optical.
Garmin has Pearl Izumi working over-time on skin-suits, wicking tech and jet fabrics. They’re not just putting more colored diamonds on lycra. What about minimizing fatigue and cutting recovery time? The company 2XU is on the cloth cutting edge when it comes to compression wear. (Although they can’t match Hincapie’s compression lingerie.)
The Argyle Armada has 3T working on competitive advantages on stems, seat posts, forks, handlebars and aero manipulation. Vaughters and the engineers and designers at Zipp are deep in the faster rims think tank. Tire company Vittoria is laboring feverishly on new rubber compounds and ways to cutting rolling resistance.
Lead sponsor Garmin outfits the team with an array of GPS enabled techno-gadgets. Rumored to be in the works, a device that jams radio communication on other teams. Watch out Radio Shack and Astana.
Vaughters has gone on record as saying he believes that clean riders can win the tour and that their approach to nutrition, training and technology can close the 10-12% performance gap between Garmin riders and a rider using performance enhancing drugs. Like Armstrong, Vaughters is waging war on all fronts and he aims to win.
Nothing is left to chance and every possible weapon is examined. This includes recovery oils, a chest rub, an energizing foot spray and a host of other recovery products from Qoleum. And Garmin riders will have their after massage anti-oxidant cocktails courtesy of Pom pomegranate juice.
The old school euro-approach to sponsorship will pay the bills but it might not get your man on the podium. You need more than nine committed riders, a few mechanics and a team car. Armstrong and Vaughters know the right sponsors see the same thing they do: yellow.