it's definitely a cultural thing of sorts. i've just finished watching cancellara's domination at flanders, but embarrassingly, rather than paying great attention to his fluid pedalling style, the distance put between himself and the duo of sagan and roelandts, how unbelievably smooth and comfortable he looks on that trek, i was looking at the adverts on the inflatables across the course. i don't know what hbc do or sell, and i haven't a clue what base offer in return for money.
actually, while we're discussing the subject, i haven't a clue what bellisol is either; or does. in real terms, this matters not a huge amount, but imagine wearing an appropriately decorated jersey while supping froth in debbie's, ostentatiously purveying a knowledgeable insouciance thus dressed, and someone will ask just what a particular logo signifies. i have been in deb's coffee emporium for many a year, but i have yet to see anything like a hole in the floor that might timeously swallow a fellow up.
of course, the fact that such banner ads and logo'd jerseys are of foreign origin would naturally lend a certain credence to one's proffered ignorance. however, i can think of few domestic situations where such incomprehension might be thought excusable.
think rapha, condor jlt.
rapha, i would imagine, need little by way of introduction, nor indeed condor cycles of london's grays inn road. however, the acronym jlt is not one that the average or not so average cycle aficionado might have come across too often in the day to day excitement of domestic cycle racing. jlt is the thankfully restricted pronouncement of jardine lloyd thompson, a name that probably wouldn't fit on a jersey front in any case.
but what is it that they do? the short answer is insurance and pensions, though as with many a large multi-national, there's just a bit more to it than that. their sponsorship of the rapha condor cycle team filled a gap on the jersey and the budget when sharp moved upwards to the world tour, to sponsor jonathan vaughters' garmin team. though perhaps not of great consolation to the men in black, this step-up was promulgated by their successful partnership with rapha condor over the previous three-year period.
the president of the rapha condor club is a tall, graceful chap by the name of charlie pearch, a gent i met recently at the final round of the revolution track series held at the sir chris hoy velodrome in glasgow. he also works at jardine lloyd thompson, and though not necessarily germane to the discussion, what is it that charlie does at jlt? "I am one of the Senior Partners at Lloyd & Partners, which is a 100% wholly owned subsidiary of JLT. This entity specialises in American derived business. Personally my clients include some of America's finest and most prestigious academic medical centers."
he has been a fervent supporter of the team through all its previous incarnations, so did he see a specific sponsorship opportunity when sharp signalled their departure, or was it more a case of wishing to improve upon that personal support?
"A bit of both actually. When Sharp announced that they were going to sponsor Garmin they did not say that they would cease their relationship with the MiB, but I had my suspicions. At about the same time I became aware through the rumour mill, that Rapha were doing a deal with Sky.
Immediately my antenna started to buzz. I was putting two and two together and coming up with 16. My biggest fear was that the team would lose the support of both Sharp and Rapha and as such, would fold naturally or morph into something else. To be honest, I had no concerns about the club because it, through the strength of its members, will continue to thrive, but my concerns were as a team supporter, and frankly I was worried for John, for Kristian for Jimmy Mac for Dean, and the youngsters.
I really like these guys; they are straight, loyal, talented hard-working professionals. Then one day, having a coffee with Grant Young of Condor, he confirmed that Sharp would not be the 2013 title sponsor but that, as far as he was concerned, Condor passionately wanted to continue. Simon said exactly the same thing immediately thereafter thus dispelling my irrational fears.
"So yes, at that time I saw an opportunity, which, to cut a long story short, led to a lunch being arranged between John Lloyd (Lloyd & Partners CEO), Simon Mottram, Grant and myself. John, who is on the Group Executive committee of JLT, quickly came to realise that there was a good opportunity for us."
most of us intent on riding our bikes as fast as age and lack of training will allow, are perhaps less concerned with the reasons why any business would pay varying amounts of money to have their names plastered all over a team's worth of polyester. just as long as they do. it has been pointed out more often than once that, though soccer teams have sponsorship logos emblazoned across the front of their jerseys, the team's name doesn't change when the sponsor does. yet the team known as rabobank for many a long year has now become blanco and what was once mapei is now quick-step. you can perhaps see the potential dilemma.
at world tour level, television coverage is pretty much guaranteed across the length of a season. shift down a few rungs (and rapha condor jlt are two rungs separated from world tour level), and apart from the aforementioned revolution series, the tour of britain and likely the weekly tour series, jlt and their fellow sponsors cannot expect quite the exposure that the world's top professionals can ostensibly provide. but in this case, for such a large international company, why have we not been aware of jardine lloyd thompson until their logo appeared on the rapha condor jerseys?
"Exactly! It is a perennial issue that many of us in the insurance sector face. Buying an insurance policy, while a necessity, is hardly glam! Everyone involved in insurance knows who we are, but the man in the street will not know of us.
"But actually that's fine, as we only sell policies to him through targeted brand products. For example, 'CycleGuard' is our product. We also stand behind the insurance product that you can purchase from quality retailers like Evans Cycles, and we are keen to utilise our expertise in this arena to support other specialist companies in the cycling industry.
"Our involvement with the team shows those in the industry that we are a responsible platform willing to put something back into the sport. Further to that, we already have a valued relationship with British Cycling, and again we would rather be seen as a supporter of BC and its goals serving a burgeoning membership."
that explains at least partially why jardine lloyd thompson are keen to place their initials on those cold-black rapha jerseys. but could there be more? long-term world tour team sponsors cofidis have reputedly increased their public profile quite considerably via their involvement in cycling. was it a similar notion that convinced jlt to sponsor rapha condor? presumably the commercial considerations added up to a favourable proposition?
"In a very small way, yes. It would be nice if we could tangibly associate commercial added value to our involvement as title sponsor to the team, and we are convinced that this will come in the due process of time. Doors are already opening to us, but we are not necessarily trying to batter them down.
"What is amazing is that certain of our existing clients have contacted to say how proud they are to see our name on the shirt. What we are finding out is that there is considerable support for British racing at this level from many commercial insurance buyers who already know of JLT and its expertise.
"I witnessed a wonderful example at the team launch, where we were able to invite an important client and her cycle-mad husband, providing them with unique access to the entire team. She was thrilled, and I am convinced that it only served to enhance the positive bond that already existed between our two organisations. Of course, we recognise that we have to conduct our business in a professional, efficient and cost-effective manner, but it helps when we have a common love of something like this. It helps to oil the wheels."
i've already mentioned the apparent fickleness of commercial sponsorship, where the sponsored team or individual is frequently seen as a product that exists to serve the commercial desires and aspirations of the sponsor. team sponsorship is rarely for life, particularly when after a period of time, the analysts claim there are few more kudos to be earned by continuing for 'one more year'. is jardine lloyd thompson in for the long-term, particularly when curating such a young team?
"That is an astute, valid and topical question.
"Ideally we would like to see the partnership exist for a three-year term. As a company we understand that partnerships should exist for the long-term, serving nobody's interest to dart in and out of a market. We would like to see continuity. The issue though, is that the JLT board needs to see the value. This is a new venture for us and as you can imagine our 6000 staff have varied interests.
There are many within the company who would like to see us get behind their sport, and there will be detractors who question why we should invest in a sport such as cycling, a sport that has struggled with its own scandals. The reason that we signed an annual contract was due to the Armstrong situation coming to a head just as we were in discussions. These revelations nearly derailed our involvement, but assurances from John Herety, and quite frankly the wonderful reputations of both Condor and Rapha helped, as did Rapha's arrangement with TeamSky. The vicarious link to Sir Dave and Sir Brad and their public zero-tolerance policy provided us with some comfort.
"So we are waiting; sitting-in to see how things develop. The early success of the team has been a massive boost and justifies our support. We paid our sponsorship up front in early January, allowing John to take the team down-under, which in turn helped the youngsters gel and develop fitness. This has led to quality early season results, helping to put JLT's name on some podiums. An example of doing the right thing, playing the game and reaping the results.
"We are monitoring feedback from our customers and the hope is that we will be able to grow our business by expanding on a specialist expertise within the cycling industry.
"This is key. In theory, ironically, we should succeed. Partnering with JLT to sell specialist cycle-related insurance products can positively help our partners' bottom line, by way of revenue sharing agreements.
"JLT is the world's leading aerospace broker; Qantas is a client of ours. On 4th November 2010, Qantas flight 32 suffered an uncontained engine failure, which could have been catastrophic. However, through the skills of the A380's captain, the aircraft was able to make an emergency landing in Singapore.
"JLT was proud to present the captain of QE32 - Richard Champion de Crespagny - with a silver plaque in recognition of his outstanding airmanship. The man who made that plaque is a mad cyclist, a long-term Condor customer. His work is currently featured by Condor Cycles, Êa random example that our connections stretch from one of the worlds leading (and safest) of airlines, to a small specialist foundry east of London."
unlike the senior personnel employed by a number of cycling sponsors, charlie pearch has a longer-term interest in the team of which he has now become commercially involved. as thus, he is quite familiar with many of the team's riders, method of operation and support staff, one of whom he has been an unfailingly fervent supporter. pearch is on record as having praised manager john herety as currently the best team manager working in british cycling. does john agree with him?
"You'd need to ask John this question. I stand by my point though. I have spoken with a large number of pro British riders, all of whom who speak highly of John. He is direct and firm, but with a heart of gold and is both fair and honest. There are no games played on the team with respect of bonuses etc. I have heard it said that John has dipped into his own pocket on occasion. He stands by his friends and by his team.
"His high standards and his high ethics are values that JLT consider very important. I remember doing the support race at Blackpool Nocturne a few years back, and after being lapped by the Eagle rider who ultimately won the race, I stopped and dismounted. But I did so in a manner incurring the displeasure of the commissaire. I was technically in the wrong of course, but John, who was getting Dean et al ready, came across and gave the commissaire an earful in my defense.
"I won't forget his support, nor his private rebuke to me; "Eh, Charlie; don't do that again". Speaking for myself, I actually think that John deserves to be employed at a higher level. His knowledge and value is immense."
there has been many a cycle sponsor over the years, remaining unimpressed by one of their riders winning a national championship. in many cases, this necessitates said rider wearing a non-standard team jersey and thus conceivably lessening the sponsor's profile in the peloton and on tv. if a pertinent example were needed, one need only look as far as teamsky's eddy higgs boson. watching the ronde van vlaanderen's peloton from the aerial shots on eurosport offered no vision of a black rapha jersey with a blue stripe down the back. so far as the casual viewer (me) was concerned, sir dave's boys had missed the cut.
rapha condor jlt rider, jimmy mccallum has, over recent month's basked in the twitter hashtag #kingofscotland, having won the scottish national road championship in 2012. an appropriate, but disappointingly not commercially available champion's jersey was provided by rapha condor sharp, and i heard it said that specifically at charlie's behest, the king of scotland jersey was continued into the new sponsorship regime. true?
"Who knows? Rapha may well have already decided this, but yes I did make a specific request of our friends at Perren Street to provide a jersey for Jimmy one which they were very quick to acknowledge. Many argue that this is undeserved, because Scotland is classified as a region by British Cycling. I wholeheartedly disagree with this. We are, of course, one nation, but it does no harm in my view to spread goodwill to recognise the feats of our Scottish, Welsh, and Irish brothers and sisters. Further to this, the Jardine dynasty was formed by two Scots and until recently, we had a thistle as our logo. I just felt that it would be right that Jimmy should have his own jersey in much the same way that Kristian had his."
it is an inarguable truism that nobody gets nothing for nothing, and when that enters the level of international commercial concerns, somebody somewhere is looking for the nth degree of accountability. though i spend way too much time posting mindless smart-ass one-liners on twitter for no reason other than i can, those operating corporate accounts would most likely prefer to see economic results arriving from all those tweets, facebook likes and dishevelled instagram photos. presumably jardine lloyd thompson would like to see bigger numbers at the foot of the spreadsheet. is there a specific set of criteria by which success will be judged?
"Absolutely not. In our view, the team has already been successful, winning the Revolution, and by following this up with a number of victories in the season openers has exceeded our expectations. We know that the other teams will catch us up, but I am seriously impressed with the youngsters' achievements to date.
"They are, under John's influence, leading by example. Many of them suffered at the hands of the French in Normandy the other week, but they have all come through the experience hopefully older and wiser. We are very proud of them.
"I would like to finish this however, by saying that the sponsors' names that appear on the jerseys are not the only sponsors. We should never forget the parents of the youngsters; they are the real sponsors of these young riders. If it was not for their time and dedication, they would not be riding on the platform that is Rapha Condor JLT."
tuesday 2nd april 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................