Today Rabobank announced that it was ceasing it’s sponsorship of it’s professional cycling team at the end of this year. The Dutch bank has been the title sponsor of all levels of cycling in Holland since 1996. Their support of cycling was huge and very beneficial but their departure at this moment in time is a cynical manoeuvre that will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many cycling fans.
Announcing the termination they cited the main reason being last weeks USADA report and their belief that “It is with pain in our heart, but for the bank this is an inevitable decision. We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport,” they said. “We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future.”
If the use of performance enhancing drugs was the real reason that Rabobank was terminating their sponsorship they would have gone during their many previous controversies not least of which was the Michael Rasmussen affair.
The real reason they are leaving is simple economics. Like all banks they are going through a turbulent time. Their advertising budget has been severely curtailed. When was the last time you saw one of their ads on tv with the blue morph suited guys wearing giro aero helmets backwards ? or when was the last time Sean Moncrief was encouraging you to put your money in their safe bank on the radio ?
The 15 million spent each year on the professional cycling team was more than they could justify to shareholders, especially when they were not producing podium results or victories in recent times.
Rather than taking the option to bow out gracefully some bright spark in their marketing department probably suggested that this was the perfect opportunity to capitalise on recent events and gain maximum exposure for their brand .
By announcing their cessation within days of the exposure of the biggest scandal to ever hit cycling they piggybacked on the gluttonous appetite for scandal within global mainstream media. To put the blame on the culture of doping within the sport they were playing to the media, and it worked. RTE have trouble giving the results of the cycling World Championships but every bulletin today carried the news of Rabobanks withdrawal due to the recent USADA report.
Even more cynical is the fact that they are continuing to support the low budget youth cycling team. Just look at how Banks in Ireland go into primary and secondary schools. Their marketing departments know that statistically if they sign up kids to open accounts chances are that they will stay with them into adulthood.
Cycling has turned a huge corner in recent days. It is now the only sport where a promising twenty year old when confronted with the option to cheat will stop and think ‘They are catching the biggest names in the sport who can afford the best doctors, lawyers, etc. so chances are just way too high that I too will be caught and have my life destroyed if I go down that road’
The bio of Rabobanks CEO states that ‘My Father always said if you want to change the World, start with yourself’ . It’s a pity that Piet Moerland didn’t think of this wise advice when it came to changing his own cycling team in order to change the World of cycling, rather than kicking a man when he is down !