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Stapleton on new USAC CEO DeMartini: ‘Nobody has a background like his’

USA Cycling Chairman says DeMartini's business acumen, not his cycling experience, will help bring non-endemic sponsors back to USA Cycling.

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USA Cycling’s previous CEO, Derek Bouchard-Hall, raced Paris-Roubaix. His predecessor, Steve Johnson, won a masters world championship.

USA Cycling’s newest leader, Rob DeMartini, rides his bike on the weekend for fun.

Yet DeMartini’s comparative lack of racing experience is greatly overshadowed by his experience in running successful businesses, says USA Cycling Chairman Bob Stapleton, and those skills are what the organization needs in 2019 and beyond. Stapleton believes DeMartini could dramatically boost USA Cycling’s overall budget, a move that might see huge improvements across the organization’s various programs for both amateur and elite cyclists.

“We need somebody who can bring in resources so that we can play a broader role in the sport,” Stapleton told VeloNews. “I need somebody with a depth of sales and marketing experience, and [DeMartini] has 25 years of that experience across a variety of major companies.”

DeMartini’s hiring was announced by USA Cycling Monday morning, one week after his predecessor, Bouchard-Hall officially left the organization to join Swiss apparel company Assos. DeMartini was hired after a months-long search process that was overseen by the global executive search firm Nolan Partners.

DeMartini comes to the organization after overseeing running shoe company New Balance Athletics for 12 years. During his tenure at the shoe company, DeMartini said New Balance’s global sales figures grew from $1.5 billion in 2008 to $4.5 billion in 2018. The company also inked major sponsorship deals with the New York Road Runners, TCS New York City Marathon, and London Marathon. New Balance also dramatically increased its number of brick-and-mortar retail shops and launched an e-commerce business during his time with the company.

Prior to joining New Balance, DeMartini worked in leadership positions at Tyson Foods and Proctor & Gamble.

“Nobody in the [Olympic sports national governing bodies] has a background like his,” Stapleton said. “He wants to have an impact here. His motivation combined with his skill made it an easy decision.”

DeMartini joins USA Cycling after a tumultuous financial period for the organization. USA Cycling made dramatic cost cuts prior to the 2016 season before receiving a $1 million funding boost from the United States Olympic Committee and the USA Cycling Foundation last year. USA Cycling’s operating budget is approximately $15 million, much of which comes from annual license fees from its approximately 70,000 members.

The organization also sells sponsorships, and in years past had marketing deals with auto manufacturer Volkswagen and Post Foods, among other mainstream companies. Recently, the organization’s sponsorship portfolio has shrunk; its current lineup includes Kinesiology Tape and Assos, among other brands.

Stapleton believes DeMartini can boost the organization’s sponsorships due to his existing business relationships.

“He can sell a mission and a vision, and that’s something we’ve been missing for some time,” Stapleton said. “He’s capable of bring non-endemic partners to our sport. Brands want to work with someone who has been there, done that, and Rob’s broader experience in endurance sports will help that.”

Stapleton said his own role within USA Cycling would likely shift under DeMartini’s tenure. In previous years, Stapleton said he was often involved in staffing and management duties; now he believes DeMartini will take charge of these day-to-day operations.

Bouchard-Hall left USA Cycling after just under four years at the job. Stapleton said he is not worried of DeMartini leaving, and said DeMartini is looking at USA Cycling with “more of a five-year plan than an 18-month plan.”

Stapleton said he does not believe Martini’s casual cycling experience will hold him back in his role. In an interview with VeloNews, DeMartini described himself as a “weekend warrior” cyclist who frequently participates in charity rides, but who has limited competitive experience in cycling.

USA Cycling already has experienced cyclists on staff, Stapleton said, and DeMartini’s role simply calls for different skills.

“We didn’t hire him to run amateur racing or athletics. USA Cycling has never had the depth of commercial and CEO experience that Rob brings,” Stapleton said. “There are a lot of things that people think USA Cycling should be doing, and all of those take resources and the right leadership.”