I hope I'm not the first to come up with that line: "HTC hitting the high road." It's too easy. And quite frankly, I'm really not that interested in what is going on at any level of cycling (or sport) with regards to sponsorship. Sponsorship is a very difficult thing to gauge in terms of ROI. Sure, your name gets blasted out there, but does that really net you an increase in income greater than what you spent. And what if you are not a title sponsor, but a small sponsor that gets a tiny piece of real estate on a bike jersey? In cycling, sponsors line up to adorn jerseys because they want to support the sport.
I do, however, follow racing. Road much more than mountain bike racing. But not fervently. I read the recap of the day's stages from the tour after it had happened. I did enjoy reading about Thor defending his yellow jersey and it was great to read about Cadel capturing the overall in dramatic fashion on the second to last day.
So, HTC-Highroad. They were the title sponsor of the team with more wins since the team founded than any other team during that period. Should be a slam dunk for a sponsor to renew, right? Well, maybe only if you know who the heck HTC-Highroad is. I didn't. Guess I didn't following racing close enough. I learned HTC is a maker of mobile phones. Hmmm, go figure. I haven't had a cell phone for 4 years and other than an iPhone, couldn't tell you the names of any other cell phones out there.
I just googled HTC and went to their website for the first time, just now. Nothing on it obvious about them sponsoring the winningest cycling team. I do know the name HTC, just didn't know what they made or sold and only because I've read about the team and seen the pictures.
And what pictures! Oh, pictures that make a sponsor proud. Pictures of your star rider arms up in victory salute crossing the line first. Pictures of your star rider flipping off the camera. Okay, emotions are high in a race, it's a heat-of-the-moment thing. The rider can be forgiven if he apolgizes. But wait, this isn't a photo taken during an adrenaline charged sprint finish. This photo is a studio shot that was surely carefully calculated. It's a full-on "fuck you" to the viewer of the photo. There's no hint of sarcasm or joking around.
As a sponsored athlete, you are representing the brands that adorn your jersey. They are you, you are them. I'm sure the failed sponsorship negotiations weren't caused exactly by that photo, but I'm sure it didn't help matters. That photo not only shows the disregard Mark Cavendish has for his fans (of which, I am definitely not one now), but the disregard he has for the people who pay his wages. If Velonews, sorry, Velo, wanted to set up this shot with Cav flipping the camera off, they really should have had him dress in street clothes. With the shot that was published, both Cav and Velo disrespected not only the reader, but the sponsors of HTC-Highroad as well.
(What's playing: Bob Dylan Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat)