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    Mountain biking: the new Cinderella story for sponsors

    Marketers are increasingly looking for new and different ways to spend their marketing budgets and sports sponsorships appear to be a relatively lucrative area to gain maximum returns, particularly if one gets in early and discovers a hidden sponsorship gem.
    Mountain biking is one such gem, with over 500 000 active cyclists in South Africa. The numbers speak for themselves: mountain bike sales outdo road bikes sales by as much as 4:1. According to AMPS 2010, more adults participated in cycling than in golf in SA. No wonder 'MTBing' is affectionately known as the "New Golf".

    Powerful experiential opportunity

    One of the reasons for its great success is the powerful experiential opportunity one finds with the sport. With the right product, those involved in the event not only get to see the brand, but they get to experience it as well. Ask any new-age marketer how priceless that combination can be.

    For example, recently Samsung Business took on the title sponsor role of a corporate mountain biking series which became known as The Samsung Business MTB Series, managed by Leverage Corporation.

    Not only were the riders, who participated in teams of four, treated to some stunning rides, but their entire family could also come along and be treated for the day, compliments of Samsung. Riders and their families were exposed first hand to the Samsung experience, with an array of diverse products actively on display.

    All starts long before

    Successful sponsorships don't rely purely on exposure at the event. It all starts long before the event.

    In this case, successful in-store promotions were run, integrating the MTB sponsorship into Incredible Connection, Makro stores and with key business partners, clients and Samsung staff. The sponsorship also facilitated the integration of the sponsorship from Samsung business into the other Samsung divisions.

    Honda, another of Leverage Corporation's clients, is another good sponsorship example. Riders are not only exposed to the brand, but through the Honda Adventure Academy, they get to see the product in action when Honda is out on the route supporting and assisting the riders. Honda's generators are also clearly visible providing power for the event. Plus there are always Honda vehicle displays for riders to feel and touch before and after each event.

    Integrate directly into business mix

    We try to encourage potential sponsors to integrate their sponsorship directly into their business mix, rather than just their marketing mix.

    Sponsoring an event such as mountain biking allows one not only to build the brand through classic marketing initiatives but also through clever leveraging to directly incorporate all stakeholders into the marketing exercise. Social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter are effectively used to drive traffic to the events and share experiences.

    There is no doubt that there is an incredible bond that develops between riders who sweat blood, rather than just play, together. We have witnessed many examples of deals being struck after an event where the value far outweighs the value of the sponsorship. Plus, what these clients have done is integrate their activities calendar for the year into the mountain biking calendar, so they have an event to offer their clients, staff, families and friends at least once a month.

    Trick is to customise

    The trick is to customise and design an event so that it is more than just another mountain biking race. We have even developed a customised formula to make sure each event has its own flavor and something which appeals to everyone.

    Technology also plays a key role in these races, with live satellite-tracking of riders and spectators plus live video-streaming at selected events. A 26-minute TV programme for Supersport is then produced on all the events and the flighting costs of this provide a greater return than the sponsorship cost itself.

    Mountain biking is a growing sport that is still available at a competitive price. and certainly an attractive opportunity for those who commit early, are happy to invest for a period, do their homework in terms of their event organizer, and leverage the sponsorship to its full capacity. For example, we have seen the Sani2C starting with just 100 teams and now attracting over 3000 riders. The Samsung event has also almost doubled in size since inception.

    We are convinced that mountain biking is the new Cinderella of sponsorships.

    About Rob Jackson

    Rob Jackson is MD of the Leverage Corporation (, which he founded in 1998. He initially spent a number of years in advertising, working for the Bates Group, Ogilvy & Mather and the Grey Group. From there, he moved into publishing, where he worked for Mafube Publishing, whose titles included Enterprise and Sawubona. Sport is his love and passion. Contact Rob via tel +27 (0)11 463 7730 or email az.oc.noitaroprocegarevel@bor.

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