Hint of a future Virgin vs Sky bidding war?

Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson has written an enthusiastic note of congratulations to Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Team Sky after today's Tour de France tour de force and hinted that Virgin Group would be interested in sponsoring the squad when the current deal with Sky runs out.

In case you've just come out of a deep cave, Wiggins finished the Tour de France in yellow this afternoon and led out Cavendish to his fourth consecutive Champs Elysees victory.

“When the contract finishes, come see us at Virgin Media!” writes Branson. He might have to wait a while; Sky renewed its support of British Cycling for four years back in May.

The London Olympics starts next weekend. “What a fantastic time for British cyclists to do us proud with such an astonishing performance at the Tour de France,” writes Branson.

“Bradley Wiggins has not only won the Tour de France, he has been supported all the way by fellow Brit Chris Froome, who finished second … backed up by the likes of Mark Cavendish, who claimed a record-breaking fourth consecutive sprint win on the Champs- Élysées.”

You can bet that world+dog will be trying to take the credit for Wiggins' win and Sky's success, and here's Branson staking his claim to Cav's prominence: “Mark was one of the 12 sportspersons Virgin Atlantic picked out back in 2006 as young Olympic 2012 hopefuls with the Flying Start programme. Good to see that prediction coming true!

"Kudos too for Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford, who said in 2009 he would get a British Tour de France winner within five years. And - through gritted teeth - congratulations to Sky for sponsoring the team. When the contract finishes, come see us at Virgin Media!”

He's probably at least half serious. Branson's son Sam is a keen cyclist who rode the full length of the Dallaglio-Flintoff Cycle Slam earlier this year. Branson Senior was scheduled to ride the first few days too, but eventually joined the ride briefly in France. Virgin also sponsors the Virgin Money Cyclone sportive. Branson describes last month's event as “a roaring success”.

Of course the big question if Branson were to sponsor Team Sky is: would we see Fran Millar featured on Richard Branson picking up women?

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.


TheHatter [770 posts] 5 years ago

why not set up his own team with Froome to rival Wiggins and Sagan to rival Cav? no chance of a boring tour then!

londonplayer [621 posts] 5 years ago

Richard Branson = Attention seeker.

If he thinks supporting Pro cycling is such a good idea, why didn't he set up a pro cycling team 10 years ago?

I've met people who've done business with Branson and, to put it mildly, they wouldn't touch him with 2 barge poles in future.

jamjam [61 posts] 5 years ago

I can see "Team Virgin" will be a good name...  3

RhysW [81 posts] 5 years ago

On the up-side it could only be good for cycling if another major UK brand began backing a team!

And a comment on basing your business decisions on what your friends think ... really Murdoch (owner of the Sky brand) ... Mr Nice guy ... yep as I thought.

Let cycling be cycling - if somebody wants to promote it let's support it!

A V Lowe [617 posts] 5 years ago

I think London Player has a good handle on how this sort of thing works.

thereandbackagain [173 posts] 5 years ago

Agree with London player too.

Branson's an opportunistic, attention-seeking chancer who's very good at using other people's money to promote him and his brand.

He was very, very, clever with the F1 sponsorship, as he carried very little risk, and apparently little commitment too.

I've worked with people who've had exposure to the Virgin business, and their experiences were universally underwhelming. People seem to think he's some sort of cuddly underdog, which I really don't understand.

I'm no fan of Sky as a brand either, but when they want to do something, they commit.

Farky [183 posts] 5 years ago

Wow, underwhelming welcome for Virgin on here.

Its Marketing, if youve never experienced it, its not about fluffy feel good, its about opportunity, exposure and money. Anyone remember HTC?

Id welcome Mr Bransons money in the sport but why wait 4 years til Sky renew?

Perfectly good GB team needing money on the form of Endura!

They have the same base that Sky/BC had prior to the full on development and buying of riders. Same great leadership and experience, similar science in sport background and riders already capable of winning TdF stages!

Get the cheque book out!

(always love that term "used to do business" as theres usually a reason for the pastence that leads me to disregard anything they say)

Carlton Reid [139 posts] 5 years ago

Team Virgin would be something that @tweetersagan would be very interested in.

andylul [410 posts] 5 years ago

Surely he's missed his chance - UK's broken it's TdF Virginity  4

Cannot rule out and egoist like Sir RB getting on the BradWagon - having a telecommunications business among your interests would certainly help (not seeing any pattern here at all)

There are plenty of folk with an excess of wonga that could chuck it at cycling. It's got to be cheaper than F1? And who's to say that have to be cycling fanatics rather than rabid self-publicists. Have we forgotten Bernie Tapie and La Vie Claire?

northstar [1107 posts] 5 years ago

All aboard....

Simon E [3124 posts] 5 years ago
Farky wrote:

underwhelming welcome for attention seeking bandwagon-hopper Richard Branson on here.

Fixed that for you  3

Most of us are well aware of what sports sponsorship and marketing are about, but feel Branson is likely to jump into cycling just because his main competitor in media/TV has tasted success in the sport. I'm not against opportunism, but I think the Tapie reference is quite apt.

Good point re. Endura, now there's a team bursting with talent looking for more support.