Without exposure, no team

Just as a cycling race can be a metaphor of real life, with its clear roles, drama, luck, intrigue, winners and losers, a cycling team's communication may also be a magnification of marketing communication as any company should deploy it. "Communication is everything for us," states one at Team LottoNL-Jumbo. "Without communication, we have no exposure. And without exposure no sponsorship and fans. And then to take it one step further: without sponsorship and fans, we don't have a team. It's as simple as that." Anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about communication should get into the team management car of a cycling team. We do that with the director of Team LottoNL-Jumbo: Richard Plugge.

We build the relationship with the fans, they feel like the team leaders
In the back seat of a Team LottoNL-Jumbo car, we find a place between water bottles, energy bars and rear wheels. Far ahead of us, an exciting battle of titans is unfolding, according to the radio. We see today purely fallen riders with their scrapes, the men who puncture and the water carriers asking for water bottles. And meanwhile we diligently take our notes... "We do everything we can to make the sport attractive to the fans. Those fans are important to us. Not only because they will eventually have to finance part of a team's costs, through merchandising, for example, but also because they are important for our sponsors. Fans turn out to choose the sponsor's product in 38% of cases. Moreover, they are an interesting target group, as almost 60% of them have a strong preference for new, innovative products. So we do everything we can to reach and please those fans. A press release is nice if we ride top three, but otherwise we mainly play the social media.

We currently have just under 110 thousand followers on Facebook. The team has 58 thousand Twitter followers, but the riders and staff together another half a million. But we also reach hundreds of thousands through YouTube and Google+, our own website and the fan website. We don't forget Asia. Through a social network like Sina Weibo, we reach millions of Chinese. Belkin saw its sales in Asia increase by 178% after it became a sponsor."

Ultralight cameras
We stop for a moment to provide a rider with a new front wheel and then listen further: "We are constantly working to engage our fans. In the last Vuelta, as a team we even had a livestream that allowed fans to attend the team meeting as well. As a team, we are not going to take over the work of NOS and do a race report, but we do try to increase the experience and make the sport even more attractive with a lot of additional information.

Some of our riders sometimes ride in the race with ultra-light cameras on their bikes: one under the saddle and one on the handlebars. The riders themselves can switch on the cameras at key moments during the race. After each race, an editor looks at the footage and edits a compilation. This can then be published on the organisation's site after the race, after which the teams and TV channels can link it to their own websites. This is how you build relationships with your fans. They feel like a team leader. In this way, we also want to double the number of followers on Facebook next year."

Contributing to the team
The sponsors are looking for this large following, but so is the team itself, we learn: "We want to move towards a different revenue model. Now the vast majority of income comes from the two main sponsors. Ultimately, we want the fans to help pay for the team in some way and we also want to start covering part of the team's costs with starting fees, television rights and merchandising. For that, you have to maintain constant contact with your fans. We do that, as management of the team, but so do the riders: they post their training data online: you can follow Wilco Kelderman's heart rate during the climb. That's how far we go and so that awareness lives throughout the team." Our hearts also beat a little harder at so much 'inside information', which easily translates to any company. Belkin did not win this day, but you did a little bit this way.

Capital Advertising is a partner of the Team LottoNL-Jumbo cycling team. The agency also coaches bicycle brand Bianchi (material sponsor of Team LottoNL-Jumbo) in the field of social media.

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