|Where have you gone Mr. Borghi?|
Quick year-end review: Nissan. Rabobank. R8 (Petrol). Big Mat. All pulling out of pro cycling in the past few months.
Can you blame them?
What's poignant...and should cause some serious change in Aigle... ought be the inescapable fact that these companies - all of whom bought into professional cycling as a (positive) publicity vehicle for their brands -- are writing big checks to NOT have their name associated with what they obviously now deem a sordid show. They'd rather not get the publicity they're paying for, because they feel the association is that bad for their brand.
"We'll pay you but would rather our name not be associated with you lot anymore... in any way, shape or form."
Nice endorsement eh? Don't let the revolving door hit you on the way out! How sad is it when a company who once supported the sport feels it's become more of a liability than an opportunity.
No, it's more than sad. It's damning.
And it's a development that begs the question: "At this rate, who'll be left?"
Answer? Fast Eddy's Law #22. The Borghi principle*
*"In professional cycling, the probability of securing and maintaining an extrasportif sponsor's support is directly proportional to the percentage of the enterprise owned/controlled by their 'cycling-lover in chief'.... and the depth of his personal pockets"
Well, the UCI domo Pat can hire a slick Dublin PR firm to spin his way out of it all he's wants: I prefer empirical evidence.
Like how about a looking at a categorized list of some of the extra-sportif corporations who've title sponsored top level pro cycling teams over the past 60 odd years, and comparing it to those who are in for 2013.
1955 – 2012
St. Raphael, Carpano, Cynar, Fynsec, Lamot, Watneys, Dreher, Boule d’Or, Willem II, Vini Caldirola, Pelforth, Wiels, Buckler, Cantina Tollo, Farnese Vini
Pepsi, KAS, San Pellegrino, Canada Dry, CapriSonne, Café de Colombia, Isostar, Postobon, Gatorade, Brescia Lat, Gerolsteiner, Milram
Molteni, GHIGI, Gazzola, Brooklyn, MIKO, GIS Gelati, Sanson, Sammontana, Ijsboerke, TucLu, Agrigel, Riso Scotti, FarmFrites, LaBoulangere , Chipotle
IGNIS, Salvarani, FAEMA, EMI, Fagor, SCIC, Teka, DelTongo, Famcucine, Hoonved, Chateaux d’Ax
MAPEI, Ariostea, Jolly Ceramica, HISTOR, AlfaLum, Tonton Tapis, Novemail, Gewiss, Lampre, Polti, Panaria, Refin, Fassa Bortolo, Agritubel
BP, Esso, Q8, Frisol, SuperSER, Elf, Shell, Domo, DCM
Liquigas, Itera, Orica, Argos, Gasprom
Nivea, Chlorodont, Tricofilina, BIC, Philips (PDM), Velda, Magniflex, Inoxpran, TS, VARTA, SKIL, ZOR, YOKO, Roland, Festina, Saeco, JeanDelatour, Phonak, Saunier Duval, Transitions, Saur
Home & Consumer Electronics, IT
Philco, Grundig, Sonolor, G.B.C., Panasonic, SONY, Hitachi, Motorola, Toshiba, Tulip, WordPerfect, Novell, MemoryCard
Garmin, Sharp, NetApp
Rabobank, RMO, Banesto, Caisse d’Epargne, GAN, Helvetia, CLAS Cajastur, Amaya, Vitalicio, Deutche Bank, ag2r, Liberty Seguros
Credit Agricole, Cofidis, Landbouwkrediet, Saxo Bank, Tinkoff Bank, Caja Rural, United Health Care, Fidea
ACICS, GEOX, Kelme, Carrera, MG Maglifico, Colombia, Footon,
Germanvox, Big Mat, Castorama, Casino, Leroux, LaRedoute, C&A, COOP, Brianzoli LaVieClaire, 7-Eleven, Z, GB, Mercatone Uno, Jack&Jones, Decathlon, Radio Shack
Radio Shack (for how long?)
Ford, FIAT, DAF, Peugeot, Renault, Nissan, SEAT, Saturn, TVM, Alessio, Barloworld
Telecom, Bouygues Telecom,
US Postal Service, POST (Denmark), ONCE, Roslotto, Aubervilliers,
Francaise des Jeux, LOTTO, ASTANA, Katusha
Discovery channel, Bonjour
Omega Pharma, Novo Nordisk
Sunair, Costa Blanca, Illes Balears, Domina Vacances
Now admittedly some of these former sponsor companies may be long gone, but their business categories aren't. You get my point. And when you think of the major brands who once supported the sport but have left and haven't come back... well, it's more than a little concerning.
'Private equity and Oligarchs.' SKY's Murdoch. Green Edge's Gerry Ryan. Andy Rihs. Zdenek Bakala. Doug Ellis. Quasi-nationalized Russian and Kazak state cooperatives. Any port in a storm.
All are guys with the deep pockets and degree of control to do what they want without needing to look over their shoulder and adjusting their ambitions to pesky shareholder or PR concerns. Uber-powerful autocratic and ambitious leaders who either have long term cycling love so big it blinds them to the short term PR negatives (unless the fallout is so great on their business, they cut the cord a-la-MAPEI)...or have enough riches and power to do whatever the hell they want. Or perhaps they're in a 'less-competitive' business category like Russian oil immunized from western PR sensitivities. (Damn the torpedos comrads...full speed ahead for the glory of the motherland!!)
In the ProTour's 2013 extrasportif lineup, there's several petroleum and financial sector patrons...but where's the retail chains? The food and beverage companies? Domestic appliances? Hotel chains? Consumer products brands?
|Baldini, Borghi and Poblet. You'd kiss him too|
if he were paying you what he paid those guys!
It's the decline of a once-great commercial model -- The concept that a non cycling-industry 'corporation' could underwrite a professional cycling team as a cost effective vehicle to magnify its brand to a wider audience, generating positive impressions and associations...and selling lotsa stuff!
It was a concept birthed by visionary and entrepreneurial cycling greats like the late Fiorenzo Magni, and Raphael Geminiani. And it's a concept that gained traction with cycling-loving captains of industry during those post-World War II economic miracle decades when everything was on the up.
|Borghi's boy Miguel Poblet won Milan SanRemo. |
And the keys to a Lancia.
Borghi was aggressive, flamboyant and flashy. And he took care of his stars - famously buying Spanish sprinter Miguel Poblet a Lancia convertible after his Milan San Remo win. On top of his 25 million lire per year salary.
|Ercole Baldini: il treno di Forli.|
And in 1959 Borghi signed the man most of Italy thought would be the man to replace Fausto Coppi: 1956 Olympic, 1958 Giro d'Italia and World Champion Ercole Baldini. He lured Baldini away from Legnano with a contract so fat many said it only served to asurre that il treno di Forli.. would...well...get a little too fat himself! He was never quite as hungry once he went to IGNIS.
But I digress. Borghi kept control of IGNIS in the family. In the paternalistic Italian industrial model - like Ferrari, Maserati or Campagnolo. He later turned the reins over to his son, who in turn finally sold the company to Dutch conglomerate, Philips.
Borghi is still remembered in Italia. RAI even aired TV miniseries about his life this past year, "Mister Ignis". Some say Borghi was a major role model to another young ambitious milanese you've probably heard of: Silvio Berlusconi.
|RAI remembers Mr. Ignis.|
|Ignis Team 1957: Photo wielermuseum.net / Piet Kessels.|
Maybe it's time to try running the really big ones - the Giro, and Tour - with national selections again like Magni suggested? Maybe the top heavy pro tour concept is a big part of the problem? Pro football (soccer) still has multiple division, and country-specific pro leagues. Couldn't cycling? Shouldn't cycling? The inflated cost structure of ProTour participation has created a 'go big-or-die' mentality. It's killing Spanish cycling, and killed the Euskatel idea that a regional team has a place in ProCycling anymore. It's killing the sport if you ask me.
But put cost aside. The bigger issue is not that 'non-Borghi' extrasportifs are jumping off the pro cycling bus because it's too expensive. They're fleeing because they think pro cycling is corrupt and harmful to their brands.
Time to clean up your act cycling.
You listening McQuaid?