Saturday, December 08, 2007

Racing - Team Comp

Recently I came across some comments on the forums concerning what team a racer should join. The racer's original team had a good camaraderie, were friendly, but didn't get as many "benefits" as the other team. The latter got some gear - discounted kits, some entries, and some other non-specified or forgotten benefits. The kicker?

The racer was a Cat 5.

Apparently his biggest concern (and, to be completely honest, it used to be one of mine) was the cost of a team kit. His original team charged "full price" for a kit, the new team "discounted" it. When I made $5.75 an hour (before taxes and stuff), to pay $40 for a team jersey seemed astonishingly expensive. I'd say most riders are not in the same situation, save the high school and perhaps some college students. Those with virtually any sort of full time job should be able to sacrifice one night out for a kit. Figure if you save yourself 8 or 10 pricey beers you'll have a jersey, maybe a couple cases of the cheap stuff. Or a few pizzas.

Now, one of the things that I think escaped the questioning racer's learning curve is what a jersey actually costs. For example, could he define what constitutes full price for a jersey or bib short?

For that matter, can you?

One unspecified company will sell you a jersey with unlimited colors for $45 plus shipping, about $50 total. Verge Sports, for a 3 color, will run a bit more - $68 for a small order, with extra for some other stuff, usually they give you a break, so call it $68 even with the extras. Not sure about shipping. Even if the team ordered the same looking gear from the two different companies and sold it at "cost", the "price" would be different to the end user.

The difference? My Unspecified stuff I bought in the last two years is wrecked. Granted, this quality level is fine for a team that changes sponsors like you (should) change underwear. You get tons of colors, gear that will work for a season, and along with low minimums, you can outfit a pretty smart looking team.

On the other hand, my Verge stuff from 5 years ago is fine - in fact I wear the Verge stuff regularly since my "other" brand of bibs ripped at some bib seams, my SS jerseys ripped at seams, and my knickers bib area is also ripping. The only thing that hasn't ripped is the jacket. And before you crack the fat jokes, they're the same size as the Verge stuff. But believe me, when I first put the stuff on and it disintegrated on me, I thought "wtf I didn't gain that much weight".

So, let's pretend you're in the same position as that anonymous Cat 5 at the beginning of the post. For argument's sake, we'll say you're either a Cat 5 or 4, maybe even a 3. You're considering jumping ship for a team with better "benefits".

Have you considered helping out your current team? Help with the team clothing order or promote a race or something? Figure out why the team needs to charge "full price" for their kit. See what goes into trying to organize a team, handle various racer's requests for reimbursement or whatnot. Or worse, go after a fellow racer for not paying for the $500 in team gear they picked up but haven't paid for. It's amazing what slackers some of those really nice riders end up being.

Until you've done all that, I'd stick with whatever friendly team you seem to have found. Join a team for the racers, not for the shwag. You want schwag? Ask for stuff from the team you can't really ever get, like, say, a pass through the shop to Interbike. And bring a big backpack for schwag in Sept, and cash for all the race DVDs you could ever want (and socks and whoever else sells stuff at the show without checking if you have an account).

But from the team? I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Personally I don't think even Cat 2s should be comp'ed in an arbitrary fashion. I think a racer should be comp'ed only if they can generate as much or more revenue to the comping agent. In other words, if a racer gets $1000 in goods from a sponsor, it's because the racer can generate the team $1000 in net profit, either from tv or newspaper appearances (they have a definitive value per second or per column inch), in additional sales (need $2-3k of sales to cover $1k in clothing), or in bringing in additional
customers to the sponsor (equal to spending $1000 for direct mail coupons or an ad in a local paper). Can the racer get 100,000 eyeballs a day on the sponsor's name? Well, then they could justify asking for $1000. If not, then not.

And if they flip off a motorist or run a light... well, what's negative publicity cost?

"Yeah, I don't know who that jerkball is on the bike but apparently he's sponsored by So-and-So - I'm going to call them up and give them a piece of my mind."

If this attitude sounds pro it's because it is. If you don't generate your sponsors money, don't ask for any. Gear, equipment, it costs a bit less than retail (say 40% below the retail value, maybe 60-80% if they get it at employee/team price), but it still costs the sponsors money.

I joke that my kit cost me about $4000 because that's what I shelled out to buy it all - my teammates paid me for whatever they wanted, and since I ordered extra, I'm probably sitting on $2k worth of team clothing. The good thing is that I have a few extra jerseys which don't have holes in them.

Um, hey, you want to buy a kit?

If you make your sponsor money, help run the team, or you put a lot of sweat equity into the team and they still don't comp you, then you go elsewhere. Until then, if all you contribute to the team is to show up at the annual meeting and perhaps race at the team's race (they do hold a race, don't they?), then, honestly, should you really expect them to be so generous to you? Think about that the next time you go for a ride and the guy who runs the team can't make it "because he's busy".


Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron George said...

These are great tips. I haven't joined a team yet. I guess the worth factor really does depend on how much weight your pulling for the team and sponsor.

Aki said...

I purposely took a somewhat extreme approach in commenting on this topic. For the most part, sponsors probably don't expect much - they're friends of the team, have some extra cash, and feel like tossing in a few bucks.

However, if you approach all your sponsors with a professional attitude and think of how to make them money (i.e. you promote them whenever you can), you'll be in more demand than the leeches that just take and never give back to the sport, the sponsor, etc.

Anonymous said...

Is the unmentioned company that sells their jerseys for $45 Champion System? Our high-school cycling club is considering ordering at least $500 in clothing from them. Do you think that Verge Sport is the way to go?

Aki said...

jabooga - Don't know if I'm replying in time. Can you email me at the site?