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Want to generate $35 million in sponsor exposure? Stick your brand on riders’ butts

EF-Education EasyPost documents reviewed by VeloNews reveal the numbers behind the multi-million-dollar sponsorships in the WorldTour.

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Want to make your team sponsors happy? Put their name where millions of TV viewers can see them.

That’s what specialists at EF-Education EasyPost have been trying to figure out for years.

It’s part of the puzzle of calculating bang for the sponsorship buck, and being able to measure the value of what a WorldTour team racing in the Tour de France can deliver.

EF-Education EasyPost manager Jonathan Vaughters is bringing big data into the calculus of what’s very much not an exact science.

“Each year we create something that looks at return on investment, but you have to realize that if you invest $10 million in cycling then you don’t get $100 million back in cash,” Vaughters told VeloNews. “Instead, an analyst will look at advertising equivalency value.”

Put simply, that’s the return-on-investment sponsors can expect when it comes to turning their sponsorship dollars and euros into advertisement currency.

“So, whatever your book rate is for media (TV, print, digital) programs or advertising, they’ll take that and apply it to how much content you’re being covered in,” Vaughters explained in a call. “That’s then extrapolated, so if the EF logo is in focus for two minutes at the Tour de France and the team is being talked about by commentators, it’s then equated to something like a one-minute ad-buy.

“It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the rough idea.”

So what Vaughters and other media experts try to do is calculate the value of exposure that a would-be or current sponsor can expect.

“So what is a one-minute ad-buy on Eurosport during the Tour de France? It might be $50,000 and so that’s added up, again and again,” he said. “So if you as a brand go out and purchase all of that publicity then that’s how much it would cost. Of course, we also offer a level of engagement with the audience that more traditional advertising can’t compete with.

“Most of the time sponsors want to see a minimum of 3:1 ratio on investment. That’s a minimum threshold for any serious sponsor,” he said. “If you add it all up, I’d say EF is at about 10:1 in terms of advertising equivalency. That’s what we shoot for, is 10:1.

“We have to show we are much more efficient than just buying advertising. But we’re not only efficient, we’re effective in that most people tune out when advertising clicks on and you’re away from the heart of the action. With us, we’re delivering a brand impression people pay attention to.”

Document reveals marketing value of WorldTour sponsorship

To help illustrate and explain the millions of dollars potential sponsors can gain in advertising equivalency value, VeloNews reviewed a 13-page document that focuses entirely on broadcast exposure that brands can expect for certain levels of sponsorship activity.

The document, which was put together by a specialist third-party analysis team, is based on data from 2020 but also includes insight from Lachlan Morton’s wildly popular alt racing calendar as well as EF’s jersey experiment that was put together with Palace at the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Some of the main takeaways provided in the documents are that sponsorship in the center of the jersey generated 16.7 million euros in value during the 2020 season.

Surprisingly, the space on the back of the shorts – currently occupied by EF-Education — was valued at 31 million euros, while naming rights were set at 67.4 million euros for the first title sponsor, and 50.5 million for the second title sponsor of the team.

Vaughters has been in the sponsorship game for more than two decades since he brought Slipstream Sports into the Tour de France in 2008 ,and then into the WorldTour a year later.

Over the years, the team has seen major sponsors come and go, including Garmin, Cannondale, Drapac, Cervelo, and Transitions.

In that time, the sponsorship landscape has dramatically changed, both in terms of women’s and men’s teams. Tech has moved on, along with audience behavior and cycling’s reputation.

Ten years ago, the cycling sponsorship market included a few more major international brands. Although there is undoubtedly more money in the sport and teams are more expensive to run now. The sport still provides a significant return, especially when it comes to teams racing the Tour de France.

“Things have really waxed and waned,” says Vaughters. “If you go back to 2008 this was viewed as immensely valuable. Until that point there had been a lot of doping stories, so bringing in sponsors had been hard in that regard, but it was really good value because the teams were less expensive and you didn’t really have the availability of Google AdSense, and Facebook ads.

“In 2012 it changed or started to change. As Google ads became more and more incentivized, target-driven sponsors could really be more specific in terms of who you were targeting when spending their advertising dollars. So, for a while their sponsorships faded out a bit in terms of advertisers and potential investors.

“Now it’s flipping back because people are just burnt out by the number of ads that they see,” Vaughters continued. “Now every single site, every social media platform is flooded. So, now intelligent advertisers have gone back to sponsorship. They’re engaging the audience directly with the content of the program, the actual race and athletes, not advertising around the edges. Take EasyPost for example — they could have gone out and just bought literally thousands of cheap ads, but they didn’t think that would deliver true brand awareness at a time they really wanted and needed it.”

The document also provides details on the huge television exposure the team generated during the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

The American team revealed a new and standout kit for the race in a partnership with Palace and Rapha. They took a small fine from the UCI but the branding exercise was a huge success with data from Google Analytics, Rapha, and social media analysts estimating that 336 million page impressions were generated off the back of the exercise.

The team also had a staggering 7.3 million social engagements with fans as both new and traditional audiences were hooked in.

Those numbers paled in comparison to the traffic and engagement Morton is estimated to have generated in 2021 with his successful attempt at riding the Tour de France on his own. According to the report, the solo ride generated 1.12 billion media impressions and 15.3 million engagements.

“The biggest thing that I always stress is that this is the way you buy in-content parts of the show,” says Vaughters.

“Readers will skip over and ignore the advertisement but they don’t ignore the content. That’s what I pound home when I’m talking to potential sponsors.”