Tuesday, August 9, 2011

HTC hitting the high road...

I hope I'm not the first to come up with that line: "HTC hitting the high road." It's too easy. And quite frankly, I'm really not that interested in what is going on at any level of cycling (or sport) with regards to sponsorship. Sponsorship is a very difficult thing to gauge in terms of ROI. Sure, your name gets blasted out there, but does that really net you an increase in income greater than what you spent. And what if you are not a title sponsor, but a small sponsor that gets a tiny piece of real estate on a bike jersey? In cycling, sponsors line up to adorn jerseys because they want to support the sport.

I do, however, follow racing. Road much more than mountain bike racing. But not fervently. I read the recap of the day's stages from the tour after it had happened. I did enjoy reading about Thor defending his yellow jersey and it was great to read about Cadel capturing the overall in dramatic fashion on the second to last day.

So, HTC-Highroad. They were the title sponsor of the team with more wins since the team founded than any other team during that period. Should be a slam dunk for a sponsor to renew, right? Well, maybe only if you know who the heck HTC-Highroad is. I didn't. Guess I didn't following racing close enough. I learned HTC is a maker of mobile phones. Hmmm, go figure. I haven't had a cell phone for 4 years and other than an iPhone, couldn't tell you the names of any other cell phones out there.

I just googled HTC and went to their website for the first time, just now. Nothing on it obvious about them sponsoring the winningest cycling team. I do know the name HTC, just didn't know what they made or sold and only because I've read about the team and seen the pictures.

And what pictures! Oh, pictures that make a sponsor proud. Pictures of your star rider arms up in victory salute crossing the line first. Pictures of your star rider flipping off the camera. Okay, emotions are high in a race, it's a heat-of-the-moment thing. The rider can be forgiven if he apolgizes. But wait, this isn't a photo taken during an adrenaline charged sprint finish. This photo is a studio shot that was surely carefully calculated. It's a full-on "fuck you" to the viewer of the photo. There's no hint of sarcasm or joking around.

As a sponsored athlete, you are representing the brands that adorn your jersey. They are you, you are them. I'm sure the failed sponsorship negotiations weren't caused exactly by that photo, but I'm sure it didn't help matters. That photo not only shows the disregard Mark Cavendish has for his fans (of which, I am definitely not one now), but the disregard he has for the people who pay his wages. If Velonews, sorry, Velo, wanted to set up this shot with Cav flipping the camera off, they really should have had him dress in street clothes. With the shot that was published, both Cav and Velo disrespected not only the reader, but the sponsors of HTC-Highroad as well.

(What's playing: Bob Dylan Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat)


reverend dick said...

While I much prefer the sprint stylings of Eric Zabel, I don't find the picture offensive. It feels more to me like a gesture of come-and take-it. And that's as it should be. Nobody is given a win.

blackmountaincycles said...

True. And it's not personally offensive to me either and I agree. My issue with it is how it also represents his sponsors. The cover shot with his fists up is better and shows his fight.

Tim Joe said...


Me, I'm jonesin' for a Marin Ride Report.

Guitar Ted said...

Well, one wonders if his sponsor doesn't represent the cycling team on its own website, did they even know about the image in the rag?

(Maybe they did, but figured only cyclists were going to see this, so no harm, no foul?)

Now, if this were in a nationally published, non-endemic rag, or even better, on You Tube and went viral, then you'd have a case to argue. Non-cyclists would see it, and then you'd maybe have an issue with clients that didn't understand.

It's weird. Cycling is such an odd sport in the U.S. and most of my non-cycling friends have no idea what "HTC Highroad" is at all. Velo? Ha! Never heard of that either.

Now RAGBRAI on the other hand......

David said...

Good post, Mike.

I followed the Tour de France (and other cycling events) closely for the first time this year, thanks to live streaming on the internet. After one particular stage, in which Cavendish was out-sprinted to the finish, he gave an interview or twittered (I can't remember how it was presented in the article I read) and, when asked about his rivals performance he said something akin to, "I couldn't have been more shamed if he had dropped his pants and pulled out a 13-incher."

HTC= He's Totally Classless
Highroad? Yeah, right.