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300 sponsors approached, no takers to back landmark stage race

The third stage of next year’s Women’s Tour will start in Felixstowe, organiser SweetSpot has announced. That completes the schedule for the five-day, new-for-2014 event, which aims to be a landmark event on the women’s calendar.

The full schedule for the women’s Tour therefore looks like this:

Stage 1, May 7: Oundle to Northampton
Stage 2, May 8: Hinckley to Bedford
Stage 3, May 9: Felixstowe to Clacton
Stage 4, May 10: Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City
Stage 5, May 11: Harwich to Bury St Edmunds

"This is great news for Felixstowe. A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to attract this prestigious event to the area. Hopefully it will prove to be a massive boost, not only to Felixstowe but the entire District,” said Cllr TJ Haworth, Suffolk Coastal District Council's cabinet member for Customers, Communities and Leisure.

Title sponsor search

However, with its stage listing complete, the Women’s Tour has been unable to find a major sponsor. According to the Independent, organiser SweetSpot has approached 300 leading companies, and while a handful are still considering most have declined to be involved.

Despite all the approached companies having equal opportunities policies, responses reported by organisers have included: "We don't believe anyone is interested in women's sport", "we focus our sports investment on men", and "we don't believe there's a market." The most common was  that the event was "not quite right" for the company.

Organisers SweetSport have been “surprised” at how hard it has been to secure corporate support for the race, in the light of the viewing success of the 2012 Olympic women’s road race and the attention paid to female track cyclists such as Victoria Pendleton.

The race will be shown on ITV4; television exposure has traditionally been the golden ticket for a corporate sponsorship.

Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, said: "It's a shame that commercial sponsors haven't woken up to the opportunity to support women's cycling, which would allow them to reach the many sports fans that will tune in to watch the world's best female riders compete.

"After the success of the Olympics it would be a massive lost opportunity if women's cycling isn't given the focus and investment it needs to develop even further."

Funding has so far come from local councils that will host stages of the race. They have kicked in £500,000, and organisers hope to raise the same again from a range of smaller sponsors even if they cannot find a title sponsor.

The lack of corporate sponsor enthusiasm is in stark contrast to the reaction among women’s teams. The race has pledged to treat and reward riders as well as an elite men’s event, with good hotels and a £50,000 prize pool. It’s hardly surprising that it’s over-subscribed with applications from teams more used to hostel-quality digs even at top races.

SweetSpot director Guy Elliott said: "We've been overwhelmed by the support and immediate buy-in from councils and broadcasters, but when it comes to finding sponsors we have found we are hitting a glass ceiling. It has surprised us how much more difficult it has been to find corporate sponsors – and that comes from a position of having been highly successful in attracting sponsorship from a wide variety of sources for men's professional cycling over the last ten years.

"Almost every potential sponsor we speak to says they love the concept of the event, they believe in the wider social agenda and 'it is the right thing' to do – yet getting them to cross the threshold from sponsoring just men's sporting events has proved both tough and disappointing.

"A few have also come out with 'stereotypical' adverse comments, but they are generally in the minority."

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

18 comments

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russyparkin [570 posts] 2 years ago
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this is insane!

come on,

right im not rich but i will throw £20 in, and if i were a big company i would throw a load in

companies are missing a trick here

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mattanthony [10 posts] 2 years ago
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Perhaps ITV 4 isn't enough of an attraction for sponsors?

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pz1800 [24 posts] 2 years ago
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Bunch of dickheads.

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pwake [395 posts] 2 years ago
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Perhaps the UCI could take some of the money they use for their non-event, the Tour of Beijing and put it to better use here?

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mrmo [2093 posts] 2 years ago
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I think this is why the talk of a tour de france feminine is doomed.

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Simon E [2845 posts] 2 years ago
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Disappointing response from companies that would surely have no difficulty finding the budget to be on TV, and some even seem to understand the benefits, yet won't grab what to me seems a fantastic opportunity.

I suspect that they can't quite get their heads around women actually racing instead of plastering on makeup and meekly kissing the (male) winner.

FFS, this is the 21st century, not the 1950s!

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Guyz2010 [304 posts] 2 years ago
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Maybe they should approach some 'feminine' type companies, Boots cosmetics for instance or the 'Closer' type media rag mags.
I'm sure they would have already.

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Gkam84 [9092 posts] 2 years ago
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They are either asking the wrong people or their projected audience and viewing figures just aren't attractive.

As its a new event, I wouldn't expect them to get much interest in Britain.

Companies here tend to jump on the bandwagon once it is rolling, but they are not going to pay to push it.

They should be looking to the middle east for sponsors. Have a great first year and then turn down all the UK companies that couldn't be bothered to help get this race running....

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a.jumper [846 posts] 2 years ago
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The first edition of the modern men's tour was sponsored by the London 2012 bid, according to Wikipedia. Guess they're not interested any more?

Anyway I'll be watching. This could have been a nice way for specialized to redeem itself after using nude women in a dealership.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 2 years ago
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The first edition of the modern men's tour was sponsored by the London 2012 bid, according to Wikipedia. Guess they're not interested any more?

Anyway I'll be watching. This could have been a nice way for specialized to redeem itself after using nude women in a dealership.

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Blackhound [447 posts] 2 years ago
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Having got itv4 on board I would have thought that a major sponsor would have followed for the exposure. The tv coverage being the hard bit.

I had fully intended to support it by going along for a day or two to spectate but it clashes with the Giro starting in Ireland. Doubt that is a reason for lack of sponsorship though. I hope this does not mean the race is in danger.

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fancynancy [78 posts] 2 years ago
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Why do we never see any action in the South East  20 Kent is the garden of England.

Anyway great to see this has been put together! Can't wait to watch  1

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fancynancy [78 posts] 2 years ago
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Could Wiggle not sponsor? Or would that go against guidelines due to Team Wiggle Honda?

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wildoo [40 posts] 2 years ago
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Are thoise dates correct?

Stage 1, May 7: Oundle to Northampton
Stage 2, May 8: Hinckley to Bedford
Stage 3, May 9: Felixstowe to Clacton
Stage 4, May 10: Cheshunt to Welwyn Garden City
Stage 5, May 11: Harwich to Bury St Edmunds

Surely Harwich start should be morning after Clacton finish as otherwise there is a lot of chasing around the countryside berween stages?

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mcvittees73 [20 posts] 2 years ago
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No sponsor? I don't get it. Surely from a sexist / commercial appeal point of view lots of fit women racing round in lycra is something that will bring in viewers and thus coverage of corporate logos?  39

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Ambobob [1 post] 2 years ago
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They might find it easier to find a sponsor if they had a dedicated website rather than tucking information away amoungst all themens tour info on thetour.co.uk

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wildoo [40 posts] 2 years ago
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We may only be a smaller business already involved in the bike trade for many years but have to say the return & exposure we have had from sponsoring the Mule Bar Girls team this year has been excellent and dare i say it pound for pound a better return than the same investment in a mens team. Every brand has different crireria for brand exposure, return on investment, target market etc but ladies cycling for the right sponsors will deliver a good return. I think however the the ladies tour will be stronger long term with a number of smaller sponsors rather than one big headline sponsor.

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Jimmy Ray Will [514 posts] 2 years ago
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This press release angers me a bit... it seems to me to be 'guilting' the trade into sponsoring the event.

The cold hard facts are that women's racing gets less exposure, has less of a following etc etc than the mens... which ultimately means that it is of less interest to potential sponsors.

I'm not saying this is wrong or right, however it is the case currently.

Now Sweetspots model is brilliant, always has been... don't rely on a title sponser, get funding from regional councils etc to fund each stage... the race goes where the money to support it.

its a sustainable and brilliant model... getting a title sponsor is the icing on the cake.

There are two points I'd like to make.

1. this isn't just about sexism here, the fact the model was originally developed to support the mens TOB demonstrates how hard it is to find a title sponsor for these events no matter the sex.

2. that rather than looking at the negatives, focus on the fact that Sweetspot are implementing a 'build it and they will come' strategy. A quality event with decent coverage will be a hard sell first time out, but once established (which this model allows), the corporate sponsorship will follow.

Personally speaking I would steer clear from sponsoring this event too, the negative connotations of ever ending the sponsorship in my mind would far outweigh the rewards of the publicity.

All these comments are showing disgust at an unknown corporate face, by stepping up, you then become that face should you want to leave.