Sky's Stephen van Rooyen talks Wiggins and winning - Team Sky
10 August, 2012
When coach Dave Brailsford set out to put together a world-class British cycling team three years ago, he knew he would need to find a top-notch corporate sponsor to support it. But it wasn’t just about logos and branding. According to agency Antidote, which worked with BSkyB and British Cycling on the marketing of the team, Brailsford wanted to create “the first brand in pro cycling”.
A brand would help get the best athletes onto the team, and Antidote helped Brailsford create “the line”, a manifesto that appears on the crossbar of all cyclists’ bikes, jerseys, laptop cases and on other collateral (see main picture, above). Together with the distinctive black outfits that riders wear, the blue line that also runs along their bikes helps the team stand out.
Team Sky was formed with the aim of getting Great Britain to win the Tour de France within five years - an ambitious goal given that this country had never won the race in its 109-year history.
It managed it in three, with Bradley Wiggins victorious at the Tour at the end of July, partly due to Brailsford’s training philosophy of “the aggregation of marginal gains”, meaning that even small improvements can make a big difference.
The injection of cash from Sky was clearly rather a larger gain. It reportedly spends about £10m a year on the sponsorship, including Wiggins’ reported £1.5m salary and the cost of buying him out of his contract with previous sponsor Garmin.
Wiggins wrote in The Guardian last month about how closely Sky supports the team. He said: “A week ago I rode the time trial of my life in the Tour, with James Murdoch in the car behind.
“After it all died down, the team went for a reception at The Ritz, again with James Murdoch and Jeremy Darroch, the head of Sky. There was champagne, quick speeches, with the riders all clearing the finger buffet because we were starving.”
BSkyB managing director of sales and marketing Stephen van Rooyen says the broadcaster’s attitude to creating Britain’s best cycling team is an example of the attitude that Sky has in general.
Stephen van Rooyen bike
“What we have done with Team Sky is a microcosm of what we do at Sky. We focus on setting ourselves a challenge, finding the best people we can to help us achieve that, setting ourselves an incredible goal like winning the Tour de France in five years, then relentlessly pursuing it.”
He adds that this attitude is summed up by the internal mantra “believe in better”, which is used on its marketing too.
As to what will happen in the remaining two years of the contract Sky has with British Cycling, van Rooyen does not talk specifics, and doesn’t comment on whether this kind of sponsorship will extend to other sports.
“We will assess whether we have hit our objectives or not - they were many fold. We were trying to introduce more people to cycling, we set a target of 1 million more Brits on their bikes in five years, we set ourselves the goal of winning the Tour de France in five years. We are on track with that.
“We set an internal target to get our staff interested in something new and invaluable and also to help with the brand - we will have more to do. I think we have made a big difference, which is the most important part.”