The American pro cycling team Cannondale-Drapac, currently competing in the Tour de France, announced on Friday that it was teaming up with the Verizon-owned company Oath as its digital-media partner for the 2018 racing season.
It’s a major win for Cannondale-Drapac. The US-registered team has been looking to increase its budget so that it can be more competitive against the world’s top teams, including that of defending Tour champion Chris Froome’s Sky team.
General manager Jonathan Vaughters has up to now led his team with what he’s referred to as a “Moneyball” strategy, in reference to the baseball bestseller. Cannondale-Drapac has an annual budget of about $15 million, about one-third of Team Sky.
“This will help shore up our finances,” Vaughters told Business Insider by phone from the Tour on Friday. “It gets us one step closer to competing with big-budget teams like Sky. It gets us one step closer to being financially stable.
“But we’re still open for more business, let’s put it that way,” Vaughters added. “I don’t want people to read this and think, ‘Oh well, I guess now I can’t be the sponsor’ — because that’s not true. We are still open for business.”
The Oath name will appear on riders’ apparel and team cars starting January 1.
“It’s definitely a major deal, but we’re still open for business,” Vaughters added. “We’re still talking with a number of potential partners to push us to the point where we can take Sky on head to head — which we already are — but really push those guys is what we want to do.”
After Verizon completed its acquisition of Yahoo in June, it merged Yahoo and AOL, naming the new subsidiary Oath.
Oath’s portfolio of 50 media and technology brands include HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, AOL.com, Tumblr, Yahoo Finance, and Yahoo Mail. As we previously reported, by 2020, Oath said it wanted its brands to reach 2 billion consumers and pull in up to $2o billion in revenue.
Cannondale-Drapac is owned by the sports-management holding company Slipstream Sports, which is owned by New York-based private investor Doug Ellis. Asked if this new partnership would allow the team to hit pro cycling’s transfer market and buy up another big rider or two, Vaughters said, “It gets us one step closer to that.”
“It sort of depends on how the other pieces of the puzzle fit in,” Vaughters said. “Like, what is Drapac contributing? What does Cannondale end up contributing? What does maybe a new sponsor contribute? All those pieces determine the overall outcome. But is it a Sky-esque sponsorship? No, it’s not. We’re certainly open to other companies who may want to enter, because we need that.
“We are definitely starting to poke around on the transfer market, no doubt about that. Haven’t made any deals yet. But I also have a lot of trust in the talent we already have, and I feel if we could support them a little bit better, in terms of sports science, coaching, and sort of all the infrastructure needs that they have, I’m sure that talent would grow into being the best out there.”
Cannondale-Drapac is enjoying its best Tour de France in years. As of Friday morning, it had the race’s third-placed rider, Rigoberto Urán of Colombia, who looks poised to stand on the final podium in Paris when the race finishes Sunday. Urán also won one of this Tour’s hardest and most dramatic stages, the ninth, in Chambéry.
How the deal came about
“The old president of AOL’s media group, Luke Beatty, who is now the CEO of Brandfolder, always felt bike racing had a massive untapped potential for behind-the-scenes-content generation,” Vaughters told Business Insider.
“Obviously content generation is a huge game right now. So he asked me earlier this year if I could take him to a bike race, and I took him to Het Nieuwsblad, and he came back and said, ‘Oh my gosh — there’s so much we can do with this,'” Vaughters said.
“He sort of went back to his old friends and boss and said, ‘Hey, would you look at this seriously? Because I think there’s a big business opportunity for you here.’ And they did — they decided to do it.”
What working with Oath will look like
“We don’t really know what it will look like just yet, but it’ll be a lot of behind-the-scenes content,” Vaughters said. “The crux of it is, I think a lot of people look at the Tour de France and say, ‘Well, that’s a beautiful event’ and so on, but they don’t understand — even fairly hardcore cycling fans don’t have a true grasp of it — the day-to-day what-it-takes to be an athlete of that level and what these guys’ lives are like.
“This content would be focused on how to bring excellence and high performance — how they do it and how you can bring it to your life, and how cycling is the interface thereof.”
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Read the full press release below:
Slipstream announces Oath as exclusive digital media partner for 2018 Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team
Slipstream Sports has partnered with Oath, a digital media company of more than 50 media and technology brands, including HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, Tumblr, Engadget, Autoblog, and AOL.com. Oath will have its brand on team racing kits and vehicles as the Cannondale-Drapac team races over 240 days, across four continents, in the 2018 season. Additionally, Oath and Slipstream will collaborate in creating and distributing exclusive video content and experiences from inside the world of professional cycling. Through this partnership with Oath, Slipstream Sports, which manages the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team, has the potential to reach over one billion consumers globally. Professional cycling is one of the fastest growing sports globally with more than 3.5 billion cumulative global TV viewers watching the World Tour in 190 countries.
“Professional cycling is rich with stories, only a fraction of which are actually told,” said Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of Slipstream Sports. “This partnership will allow us to open up the team in terms of content well beyond what most of the world audience sees. Oath has the platforms, skill and ambition to tell the story of cycling in myriad ways. We want people to see us better, to get to know the riders, the staff, and what it takes to be in pro cycling. And we want to use our position as professionals in the realm of the everyday cyclist, too. This partnership gives us a chance to do all those things.”
“Our mission at Oath is to build brands people love. There’s untapped potential to grow the global audience in professional cycling. Through our diverse portfolio, we can provide unique content experiences and engaging stories,” said Stacy Lambatos, VP of Brand Experiences. “We have the technology and content creators to tell these stories through a new lens, including AR, 360 and Live video. This partnership defines what it means to build brands people love.”
Slipstream and Oath will begin sharing cycling content beginning January 1, 2018. For more on Oath, visit www.oath.com.
The Cannondale-Drapac Professional Cycling Team is an American-registered UCI World Tour racing team. It competes at the highest level of the sport and strives to be open, attacking, and entertaining. In the 2017 season, it has the youngest roster and one of the most diverse squads in the World Tour. Our riders come from the United States, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Colombia and beyond. For more on Slipstream, visit www.slipstreamsports.com.
Oath, a subsidiary of Verizon, is a values-led company committed to building brands people love. We reach over one billion people around the world with a dynamic house of 50+ media and technology brands. A global leader in digital and mobile, Oath is shaping the future of media. For more on Oath, visit www.oath.com.