Decide Our Sponsorship Structure

We get contacted every day asking if we would like to sponsor individual cyclists or teams. We know that grassroots sponsorship can be a very good way to support the community and increase brand exposure.

We havn’t done any sponsorship yes, but would like to begin now.

We think there is an opportunity to successfully sponsor non-professional cyclists, which are influencers in their local cycling group.

We would like to develop a very well designed structure that allows a broad range of cyclists to be sponsored by Tokyowheel and have their impact accurately measured.

We want to support the community but at the same time we are running a business, not a charity, and we have to be smart with our resources.
What we don’t want to do is be giving out free wheels to everyone who asks, you’d be surprised to know how many people ask :wink: . We would like to have a structure to identify what members of the community would provide a good return on investment, or would succeed in a compensation structure.

At one point we tested offering our “Earn Money by Sharing Program” as a way for potential sponsored athletes to show the level of influence they have in their community. The response was less than positive, with quite a few of the individuals requesting sponsorship giving feedback to the effect of. “That’s too much work, I just want something for free”. This was very off putting, and I’m sure doesn’t represent the attitude of the individuals that we would love to sponsor.

So in summary we would like to have a transparent and highly structured way to:

  • Identify who should be sponsored and who shouldn’t
  • Determine what benefits the sponsored athlete will receive
  • Determine how we will measure the return on investment for each sponsored athlete
  • Set the performance expectations for potential sponsored athletes,

Share your throughs here, and help us to begin sponsoring more athletes.

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I totally agree with what you’ve written here because it’s right that nobody should really get anything for “free” - they should at least have to do something in return. By this I mean they should promote your brand of wheel by riding with them. This can be in the form of winning races or even out on club rides and training rides where other riders see your bike and your wheels and hopefully get jealous! As a member of a competetive Junior Development team based in the UK this is something we are really looking to do being able to expose Tokyowheel to the European market and make it a brand of wheel akin to Mavic or Zipp to name a few.

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My two cents:

As a relative newcomer to a crowded market, I think that resources are better spent getting products in the hands of athletes and reviews online that aren’t written by you. I’m part of a national triathlon team that has been fairly successful at attracting sponsors, and one of the primary ways that we deliver value to them is through product reviews and interviews. Check out these two for quick examples:

Like 2010meakin said, it’s also important that the athletes selected are using them in public. Seeing these wheels at a bike shop or on a group ride is going to pique a lot more interest than at a race. Races are too crowded, and people have many other things on their mind than what kind of wheels someone else has. Wheels aren’t on the podium, and you can’t tell how they perform while the bike is racked - so getting them out in ‘public’ where a discussion can take place is the key for grassroots exposure.

You can reach out and touch a lot more people with quality reviews and interviews that are written by someone other than you. As you can see from the interactions on ST, triathletes can be a fickle bunch, and they highly value third party assessments, especially before spending wheel money.

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I totally agree I just finished doing a 6 month Time Trial Series in North Carolina where most people are either using Zipp or HED wheels . Everyone at the series both men and women talk about their wheel set up for doing the Time Trials. I believe using Tokyowheels at a series like this as well as training rides wear your Brand would be great exposure in the United States. Oh by the way I finished 2nd in my age division in the series averaging 25.8 MPH on my last Time Trial Race of the series. You definitely should not get anything for free . You need to be racing and competing to give your Brand exposure as well as promoting your products be it wheels or a bike frame EVERYTIME you ride weather traing or racing. Thank You Scott Wilson

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The big questions are:

  1. How do we measure the potential effectiveness of a sponsored athlete before engaging in sponsorship.

  2. What will the sponsored athlete be getting. i.e Free Wheels, wheels ‘at cost’, a small discount, extra gear like kit and promo materials, etc.

  3. How will we measure the effectiveness of the sponsored athlete during their sponsorship.

I am open to any suggestions. At the moment my answers are this.

  1. We ask to see race resume, blog, forum accounts, etc. (I’ve always felt that if a cyclist isn’t maintaining a blog, then they aren’t serious enough to be sponsored).

  2. At Cost + free promo gear, like kit etc.

  3. I originally thought we could use our sharing system outlined in Ambassador Program to accomplish this, but this doesn’t take into consideration race performance and other media exposure.

Let me know your thoughts.

Those are good questions. Measuring effectiveness is going to be exceedingly difficult, even for pros like Andy Potts. Not like anyone is going to see him using some gear he is hawking (like the Polar V800), and then communicate that the reason they purchased it when they go to a retailer, or even to Polar, and say “I’m buying these because of Andy!”. Sales will tick up, but it’s impossible to determine exactly why (the other promotional setup that you envisioned, commission for direct referral, is different).

Athlete’s promotion via social media or blogs (like my team’s) can be quantified to some extent (i.e., number of page views, shares, retweets, etc), but that can’t be translated directly into sales increases. If you pick a team, and provide a couple of wheelsets in exchange for in-depth reviews, and provide coupon codes for other team members to get things at cost doesn’t really hurt you. You’ll get the press with the review that can make its way into triathlon forums and shared online, which is probably worth the cost of the couple wheelsets by itself, and you can get exposure by providing wheels at cost (benefit to both parties) when they train and race.

Unless you’ve got a very high, high, profile athlete, provision of free gear without anything in return (i.e, real reviews) doesn’t seem like a benefit to you.

A few suggestions from me!

To measure an athlete or group of athletes effectiveness other potentials include race results (or even the number of races that person attends), activity on Strava (no. of miles this person does a year, what clubs they’re involved in, how many Kudos they get and comments they make etc.) and also Teams/Groups that they’re affiliated with.

You could then do sponsorship based upon how effective the athlete is compared to other athletes - those who show strong signs of being able to promote the brand in the aforementioned ways could get free wheels, and those with less potential wheels ‘at cost’, a small discount etc. That way riders are going to want to more likely promote the brand and be more enthusiastic about it. Recently in the UK continental did a tyre amnesty where if you handed in your old tyres (they could be of any condition/brand) then you would get a free pair of their new tyres as long as you wrote a review of them - comparing this to the Specialized tyre amnesty where you had to pay (although at a discounted price) I was really enthusiastic about the opportunity and wrote them a detailed review.

These are just my thoughts and the thoughts of my junior development team - one of which one a race series with some of your Tokyo Epic 38mm wheels that he bought recently in a dashing pink colour.

I think it depends on the market the team or athlete is in, what is your product marketing strategy? Do you think having wheels on riders in each market place will influence and provide visibility in that cycling community?

Agree on the charity comment… Thing is with grass roots sponsorship is that those athletes are busy having a life… So blog etc tends to be on nice to have list…

Rather than looking at it from free wheel set, perhaps graduated in form of discount levels based on visibility you feel your brand gets and measure of wheel sales that you ask if refered… Similar to your sharing idea.

For example… I say… These wheels great etc etc if interested, when you bu, list my name for xx discount. Makes it personal and carrot for sponsored rider maybe highest discount or free etc…

Here in nz, China wheels are getting traction but fear of vwheel failure huge. So having a local team hammering them and being local reference and trustable makes big impact. Even having spare set for testing! Again does not need to be free but good discount to the team so they feel invested.

Just my thoughts

Cheers

Joel

Whomever you sponsor will, of course, need to ride your wheels and get them out there to be seen. Hopefully whoever it is will be a good ambassador for the brand and be willing to talk them up too…if you’re trying to grow “grass roots”, you need the grass roots folks showing them and talking about them.

Exposure is also needed in terms of where cyclists are. I don’t think racing is the only place to show wheels off. Charity rides, Fondos, club or co-op rides, shop rides…anywhere you get a good number of folks together and they can see your product is a good thing.

I think another valuable tool is the review portion…having someone with some technical background to be able to provide feedback on them to help you grow is another important aspect…but also getting those reviews shared. Plus they need to be “real” reviews…if you get 99.99999% positive reviews without negative comment, folks are going to call BS on it (nothing is perfect…all wheels are compromises between speed, weight, aerodynamics, ride feel and so on) and accuse you of using shills.

The problem is how to measure the results.

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Agreed. It seems that we would want a structured program for sponsored athletes. For example what schedule of events will they be attending, what photos & videos will that take at the events, how will they pass along information about the products, and how will we measure success.

Yes, this is very true. You know… I wonder why people give so many 5 star reviews on our website review system. We have over 100 reviews and the average is 5 start. We never delete any reviews, or modify things. I wish that people would at least give a little ‘negative’ feedback. It’s better for the prospective customer and also negative feedback is the only feedback that is actionable on our side, so we love it.

We have zero major blog / magazine reviews, so this is an obvious area that we need to put some resources into.

Thanks for the great feedback!

I think as already mentioned above you should try to target/cover all markets and layers in the cycling world from pro riders to semi pro, youth teams, amateur racers, touring events, commuting, pleasure to whoever is involved in biking to achieve the max.

Its very hard to track down the effectiveness of a sponsorship, dont realy agree it only means clocking good results in races justifies a sponsorship. Its also a matter of visibility and brand positioning by using them as often as possible to trigger others interest to ask info on you about them.

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Hi James,

I believe that your current referral scheme has a lot of merit:

  • it is directly quantifiable
  • it ensures that the rewards for referrals are in proportion to the benefits to Tokyowheel
  • it eliminates the risk of tokyowheel investing up front

However, I believe the scheme as it currently exists will not have a lot of impact because it is essentially a commission scheme that will lead to opportinistic referrals but not a concerted promotion and there is nothing in it for the customer who actually buys the wheels.

I think a better sceme would be to offer the end customer the discount on their wheelset when they use the referral link and then having some form of credit system that accumulates for the referrer. The credits could accumulate up to a certain level and at that point a higher discount would apply for the referrer when they buy their own wheels.

It would be interesting to know what your view is on how many sales/how much revenue you would want to see befor you would be happy to offer a 10% discount to the referrer. Similar how much revenue before you are happy to offer a 20% discount and so on until you get to a cost +10% situation or possibly even lower.

If you had this structure then it would ensure that you get serious promoters of your wheels, the risks and rewards would be equally shared and no one ends up getting a free lunch.

This alternative structure could also be useful for teams and other groups who could register as a referring group and get credit to buy team wheels. In this way you can promote Tokyowheel through groups rather than high profile individuals and you may find that there is much greater marketing leverage.

Cheers

J

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jvam41,

The downfall I see in your proposal is that if the customer already has a set, at least at the recreational and low lever racer levels, then changes are they won’t need another set in the immediate future and so a credit isn’t an incentive…if I have my wheels already and don’t need another set until I wear them out, a credit for referrals won’t mean much unless James is going to cut me a cheque after a certain period of time.

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This statement was submitted via email, but ill post it here for community discussion. This is in reference to how a Tokyowheel Dealer would facilitate sponsoring athletes.

My opinion :
I think deliver wheels at (low) cost is the best solution for now…
Riders can choose a wheel configuration(hub/spokes) an i will do the ordering @Tokyowheel website. They can choose 1 or 2 color options.
(This will depend on the team colors)
Tokyowheel will deliver some extra spare parts like spokes, nipples, brakepads
For hub related issues like warranty i will take care of it.

Next :

Riders/team must take pictures/video of the wheels (in action) and share on facebook or team website + maybe we can set up a dropbox or other account where everyone can place picture(s) video(s).

Every wheelset must be 200% clean when riders use there wheels or take pictures to share.

What do you think?

It all comes down to you as a company . I agree with the post you have to get your wheels out there and let individuals train on your wheels and let them give reviews using there names and likeness for using your wheels. Most people on this list already have a few good sets of wheels your going to have to decide how you are wanting your wheels to get Exposure / Promoted. I love going fast and doing Time Trial Races you may or may not be interested in Exposure in this arena others love cycle cross still others love during century rides 100 mile rides. I believe you will have to let your sponsored athletes use your wheels at no cost to them to get your wheels EXPOSURE. Most like myself are riding on HED, ZIPP or RENN wheels to name a few . At this time we do not know that much about your wheels. How they handle how they climb, how they accelerate on the flats . You need real people giving real reviews. And most of the social media ( bicycle forums )is blocking the talk about overseas cycling wheels at this

time.

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I have been riding/racing on a set of 38/50 epics for the past year and have had volumes of people ask me for info/specs on and about my wheelset. People really have shown interest in this product. I have no issue with helping spread the word about tokyowheel and it’s products. I believe in the brand and ride their wheels almost every day . But I believe In due return for good services . A solid relationship between the company and its customers/Team members/and sponsored riders is very important. And getting something in return for hard work really increases motivation to work harder and increases moral. I’m very excited about sponsorship. And even if it doesn’t happen, I’m very happy to still help tokyowheel take flight.

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Hi everyone,
I may be new to the race scene (and only cross), but I’ve been working a shop for a while now so I figured I’d give some input for what it’s worth.
I will say having a bike, or part of a bike, or kit that stands out, will get peoples attention and get people talking. I’ve had numerous people come up to me and ask about my bike and team because I’m quite visible (and maybe odd to look at) even though I’m racing Cat 5 cross. I think the key co-factor to consider is making sure a sponsored athlete knows what to talk about if/when someone asks about the product. A sponsored athlete should be able to answer just about any general question a person has about the product. Essentially they almost become a salesman.
The second thing I have to say is not to underestimate shop/club rides. I can’t even tell you how many people have come into our shop asking for xyz parts because so-and-so had them on the group ride.
Hope this helps!

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As everyone agrees, your sponsorship strategy makes sense. It would be good marketing to distribute wheels, but only as long as the athletes earn you that money back (at least the cost of the wheels), and any more will tell how useful that athlete has been to sponsor. Being an age group triathlete, bikes, kit and of course wheels are always talked about among racers and throughout the season, but alongside promoting wheels at races, as I am a traithlon coach, I am often looked to for advice from clients and seen as for the font of knowledge within the group. Therefore I believe it could be useful to offer wheels to people such as coaches as they offer another outlet of sales among up and coming athletes, who will ultimately be looking to constantly improve (often meaning upgraded their kit). I often believe it can be difficult to advertise and sell wheels and kit among fellow age group athletes as many have already got carbon aero wheels. Therefore targeting athletes, as said before who are at the level of needing the extra small gains will prove valuable. Furthermore being a coach who competes, it is useful to keep a blog and share experiences to triathletes who are looking to improve and advertising through this source by reviewing your personal kit and how it has helped and performed throughout a race/season will prove valuable to tokyowheel.
Alongside the coaching and racing, I am also a sports scientist at a university and with triathlon being my sport, I have produced a number of tests reviewing aerodynamic kit, evaluating athletes performances and how to improve within the sport. Through these sources kit, and in this instance tokyowheel, could be advertised through research and making people aware of the performance benefits which can be achieved through utilising your product.
I hope my personal experience can be useful with regards to different outlets for which your wheels could be advertised, and provide ideas for different groups which could be targeted.
Many thanks
Jake Pye

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Hello from Spain,

Based on sponsorships from other companies related to cycling, a form of collaboration could be :

  • The rider gets a discount on their wheelset Tokyowheel (for example 30 %)

  • The rider should be responsible for putting Tokyowheel logo on their training or competition clothes

  • The rider must promote companie Tokyowheel through Facebook and Twitter monthly

  • In the case of cycling team or cyclist group interested in buying products Tokyowheel, the discount could be somewhat higher but consideration will also increase accordingly ( for example larger logos on clothes, logo in the team car, etc.)

Kind regards

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@bicisportpoli, great suggestions. I think you have the right idea.

We’ve done some testing over the past year by sponsoring some athletes, with discounted wheels. In general their performance (sales, media exposure, referrals), has been almost zero.

I think the key element that we have been missing, which you suggest is to have a defined protocol for their actions and their performance expectations.

Also it seems that sponsoring non-professionals is a waste of time (sorry to put it so bluntly).

We havn’t sponsored any of the UCI teams that have contacted us (only about 3~4 UCI international teams have asked for sponsorship from Tokyowheel). Mainly because it’s a large investment in product, which would honestly probably give us better ROI if we sent those products out to review blogs and magazines instead.

Obviously sponsorship is working for brands, or we would have the professional cycling sponsorship ecosystem that exists today. We aren’t going to be sponsoring any individuals for the medium term future, but will explore it more as the company grows.

That being said, we are reaching out to more blogs / review magazines and getting our products into their hands.

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