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  • Writer's pictureMo Awesome

Who Should Bike Companies Sponsor?

The year is 2024 and you are in charge of advertising dollars for a bike company. You have to make the decision of how to spend the marketing budgets, and one of the big decisions is who to sponsor. In addition to the sport of mountain biking itself having changed so drastically in the last few years, how people consume mountain bike content as well as the demographic of who is in the market for bikes has changed as well, making this decision even more complicated.

Traditionally sponsorship budgets have gone to professional mountain bike racers, who are the top level athletes of the sport. Someone like Gee Atherton or Aaron Gwin is essentially the Kawhi Leonord or Lebron James of the mountain bike world. Gwin and Lebron James might be a solid comparison as well due to how long they have been around dominating their field, maintaining the elite level talent. 

However, unlike other mainstream sports such as the NBA, mountain biking is a little bit different. In the NBA, the elite world class players are responsible for a majority of the money being brought into the basketball industry. When you think of money being made in the NBA, some of the biggest revenue streams for a NBA team franchise are ticket sales, TV ads during games, and Jersey as well as Merch sales. People get excited to see their favorite players and when you have someone like Djokivich or Ja Morant, ticket sales go up. People are buying tickets to see these players. 

The same thing goes to why people would watch on television. As a team it's in your best interest to sign players that are going to make people want to watch. I still get excited every time the Lakers attempt to sign a combo that is supposed to take us to the playoffs, even if I get let down. And a showman that is going to bring that energy, is going to bring more eyes to the game on TV, which in turn increases advertisement revenue from being able to charge more for commercials, especially during things like the NBA playoffs. 

Jersey sales for a franchise go through the roof when you have a star player as well. What better way to rep your team than wearing your favorite team colors with the stars name on the jersey. I remember growing up during the Kobe era, and wearing the number 8 jersey made you one of the coolest out there, and when he switched to 24, that was a new jersey you needed! Shoe sales also follow here with star athletes getting individual contracts, however this benefits the athlete and less so the overall team. But this shows you their star power in the sport, they are so good that people would buy their shoes! 

So looking at these sales, it's a no brainer. If you want to increase watch time, ticket sales, merch and jersey profits, and overall numbers across the board, then go out of your way to sign the best of the best. Afterall, with something like the NBA, the correlation between someone who casually enjoys playing the sport of basketball recreationally also being a fan of the NBA and having a favorite player must be insanely high. It is very rare for someone to like to play basketball in their free time to not know who Steph Curry is, right? 

Now let's go back to mountain biking. Is this the same case? This is where things get complicated, especially with the sport of mountain biking entering the mainstream world during the last few years, and becoming more so a form of outdoor recreation. Is your average mountain biker a huge fan of racing? Who is the demographic for racing and how does that translate into revenue? Is someone more likely to want to spend money with a brand due to that brand's signed racer? How much of racing is the content that's consumed by the end consumer? There isn't a simple answer here. With the demographic of mountain biking having changed so much over the last few years, it's tough to say how big that demo is that consumes racing content, and furthermore than that, is influenced to purchase a bike from a brand due to that pro racer. 

However if not racing, where do you spend your advertising dollars? That is an even tougher question to figure out. Over the last few years there has been a rise of online content creators, is that where you should spend your marketing dollars? And more importantly will these online content creators stick around? Because after all, one thing about professional mountain bike racing is you don't just become the best overnight. It takes years of training and dedication to get to the point of being the best rider in the world, and when you get there you probably are going to be there for a while. But how about a content creator that went viral in a short period of time, will that sudden rise to popularity be sustainable? Will they burn out? Will they be a solid investment? 

And also unlike the NBA, there is a lot more that comes out of athletes in mountain biking than an NBA star. Nba stars aren't changing the game of basketball in terms of technology. For the most part, a lot of basketball tech has stayed the same. However, downhill racers are pushing a bike company to the extreme testing and development wise, and we can thank a lot of the design innovation of mountain bikes over the last few years to mountain bike racers who oftentimes are riding bikes that aren't even fully ready just yet. How do you measure that? Because even if you didn't buy your bike because of a racer, chances are a racer had something to do with your bikes development, not a content creator?

So how do you spend your marketing dollars as a brand? Do you do a hybrid approach? Do you separate the testing and development from the expectations of an ROI? Do you go out of your way to figure out what the latest and greatest social media app is to get on the new wave early? Well if you are a marketing manager looking for an answer here, I dont have one and I wish you the best of luck because that has to be an insanely hard job!


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