By VeloNews Interactive
A day after the 2002 HP Women’s Challenge wrapped-up in Boise, Idaho, on Sunday, the promoters of the race announced that they are seeking a new title sponsor after Hewlett-Packard ended a six-year run as the event’s largest financial supporter.
“We found out just before the beginning of this year’s race,” Women’s Challenge director operations Robyn Browne told VeloNews. “We just were not going to make the announcement until it was over and detract from this year’s mood.”
Browne attributed the HP pullout to the company’s recent merger with Compaq, which “has put the entire company’s sports marketing program – not just us – completely on hold. They have a lot of business decisions to work out in the coming months and we need to get going on next year already, so without a commitment, we had to open the door to other sponsors.”
Browne said that while the race has no immediate prospects for a replacement, the outlook for the race “is not bad, not bad at all.”
“We’ve gone through much tougher times than this,” she noted.
The race, which began in 1983, was initially sponsored by the Boise-based Ore-Ida corporation. The race has been run by former Ore-Ida employee Jim Rabdau, who stayed on as race director even after his company ended its title sponsorship of the event.
Without a title sponsor in 1993, Rabdau continued the women’s stage race with the support of a consortium of smaller sponsors.
With manufacturing operations in Boise, HP signed on in 1996.
“Hewlett-Packard has been an incredible sponsor of the Women’s Challenge”, said Rabdau. “We couldn’t have taken this race to its prestigious international status without HP’s involvement.”
Hewlett-Packard officials said that the decision to end their sponsorship was based on changing corporate sponsorship strategies and not on the merits of the Women’s Challenge itself.
“The Women’s Challenge is a World-Class event that is the ‘Tour de France’ of women’s cycling in the U.S.,” said Doug Cole, HP Brand Sponsorships Manager. “It’s flawlessly executed every year and will continue to be a tremendous sponsorship opportunity for those looking to support the achievements of extraordinary athletes”.
Browne said that the organization hopes to have a new title sponsor by August, “since it takes almost a year of planning and organization to pull this off.”
“We already have 95 percent of our smaller sponsors from this year lined up for next year,” Browne said. “Some of them are going expanding their sponsorships, so we’re not in bad shape.”