As the director of a grass roots cycling team, I’ve often asked myself a few questions over the years. Does a grass roots cycling team need a fat sponsorship check from big corporate shindigs? Does it make sense to those corporations? Do corporations really understand a partnership vs. a sponsorship?
Based on my experience, the short answer to these questions is……not sure……maybe, maybe not……not likely (no disrespect intended)!
Don’t get me wrong, there are larger corporations that really understand and appreciate why and how grass roots cycling teams operate. This might be because the decision maker/owner/CEO is a cyclist themselves or in some way has a love for the sport. However, my experience has been that a very small percentage of large corporations will support small local cycling teams. Reasons range; they may not be permitted by their internal corporate policies, they might not need the exposure a grass root team is offering, or they have their funds tied up in other “team sponsorship” channels. These are all just fine!
The team (Team905 Cycling p/b Steelmark Business Services) I’ve run over the past three years is not big by any means, eight guys around the age of thirty. Despite our size, we pride ourselves on being family men, with full-time jobs, have a passion for cycling and healthy living, enjoy hanging out while riding, and most importantly, building partnerships. This pride and passion has made Team905 what is today and is the core of our team values, expectations, and goals!
Now you might be asking what all this pride and passion stuff has to with the question at hand. Well, by partnering with a successful “grass roots” company, more often than not, that company will have an affinity to that pride and passion and want to build a partnership. At the end of the day, a big reason why their company is successful is because they have pride and passion and building partnerships has most likely been a big part of the success. I know, it can be argued that corporations became corporations because of the exact same reason. This is very true, but at some point a corporation has bigger fish to worry about and just want to sponsor a team and move on.
See, partnership has so much more meaning than sponsorship. The sheer definition makes all the difference; part·ner·ship (pärt n r-sh p) – A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal. Sure there are companies out there that just want to be a sponsor, but when a grass roots team is faced with this, I question what is the motivation and how will that company build a partnership with a team!
So, when a grass roots team has the good fortune to partner with a “grass roots” company that recognizes a shared pride and passion, there is an inevitable common understanding. That understanding is that a partnership will create a huge opportunity to positively impact each others brand awareness within their respected communities and with their B2B peers. When a great partnership is developed, everyone involved is making every effort to show off why they are partners. That can be in many ways and we won’t get into that until another day, but it will happen because it’s a partnership (if you missed it, please see above paragraph and read the definition of partnership).
Team905 Cycling wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for the partnerships we have! With the support of companies that truly get the difference between a partnership and sponsorship we have built credibility within our regional cycling scene, but also outside of it. This has opened great opportunities to build partnerships with companies within the cycling industry. Some of these companies might be larger “corporations”, but there is a deep rooted pride and passion that first started these corporations and they too understand the difference between a partnership and sponsorship. There is a bit of work that needs to be done to ensure you find that pride, passion, and understanding, but when you do, you’ll know.
As a grass roots team, our partners, home town or not, are always partners because it’s more than just a sponsorship.
Check out Team905 Cycling website (www.team905cycling.com). More importantly go to the Partners area and see who our partners are. Go to their websites, learn about them, and see how their pride and passion has made them successful.