TAM Cycling Inc.
A couple of weeks ago we had Nicola Cranmer on The Active Lifestyle Marketer. You can listen to the episode HERE. TAM Cycling Inc. is a non-profit women’s cycling organization with multiple cycling teams under the TAM Cycling umbrella. Most notably is Team Twenty20, a women’s pro cycling team with their eyes on the 2020 Olympics. The organization was started by Nicola Cranmer 13 years ago after she noticed poor sponsorship support and recognition of women on her team and in the cycling industry as a whole. Nicola set out to change the support of women in the industry, and though things definitely aren’t where they should be, things have changed dramatically over the last 13 years thanks to advocates like Nicola.
TAM Cycling and Team Twenty20 are supported and sponsored by some of the biggest brands in the cycling industry, including SRAM, Felt, Zipp, Oakley, Clif Bar, Catlike, and Prologo, just to mention a few. Nicola has worked hard to build these relationships over the past decade, but she mentions the difficulty in finding brands that will support women’s cycling, simply because the engagement level and “eyeballs” on the sport are not as high as you’d find in men’s cycling. Nicola and her team have worked hard to build their audience and social following so that when they meet with potential brand sponsors they have a social presence to support their “ask,” but it’s been an uphill battle from day one. In this article, I want to expand on some of the points we touched on in this podcast episode. The first is Nicola’s strategy in building the team.
Nicola built a talented team but she started with purpose.
In the first parts of our conversation, Nicola mentions how she was on a cycling team herself. She noticed that the women on the team were doing really well, but the men were getting all of the sponsorship support. In annoyance with that imbalance, she set out to change that by starting her own women’s cycling team. It’s important to note that Nicola started this 13-year long adventure with a purpose and belief that women deserve equal recognition and support in cycling. That belief continues to drive Nicola today, and it’s inspiring to see the success her team has had over the years. We’ll expand on the importance of purpose later in this article, but I want to first talk about Nicola’s approach and strategy in building the TAM Cycling team.
Nicola started by focusing on building teams with great talent. It helped that she was based in California where there was, and still is, a “super rich pool of talent.” What started as a hobby and passion quickly turned into a full-time job, simply because Nicola pursued a passion that was driven by purpose. Nicola knew that growth and sponsorship support would come if the team was successful, and that strategy has worked well from day one. TAM Cycling and it’s affiliate teams have had huge success on the biggest stages in the sport of cycling, including the Olympics, Pan-American Championships, and World and National Championships. They also have a junior development team that works to support the next generation of cyclists, yet more proof that Nicola is invested and passionate about the sport of cycling.
“Education and the investment in the next generation are huge selling points when Nicola and her team pitch to potential sponsors, and they are the only pro cycling team with an integrated junior program.”
Education and the investment in the next generation are huge selling points when Nicola and her team pitch to potential sponsors, and they are the only pro cycling team with an integrated junior program. How other teams have not jumped on this opportunity is baffling to me. This focus on education programs sets TAM Cycling apart from the rest of the industry in a pretty significant way. We believe that this is proof that when you align your brand with a core purpose and belief, build stories that are carriers of those beliefs, a loyal audience will follow and that audience will advocate on your behalf.
SRAM, Felt, and Zipp have all made public statements about their beliefs.
Now, although Nicola and TAM Cycling have seen great success in the last 13 years, that doesn’t mean things haven’t been difficult. Women’s cycling is still a relatively small sport compared the others, and finding brands that will support women’s cycling is difficult. Too many brands are still completely focused on engagement and viewers, rather than supporting something they believe in and allowing that belief to build and nurture advocacy in their own audiences.
Let’s take three big brands that sponsor TAM Cycling for example. By supporting TAM Cycling, SRAM, Felt, and Zipp have all made public statements to their audiences and the world that they support women in cycling. We strongly believe that will go a long way in building brand loyalty, from men and women, in those brands. People want to believe in and stand for brands that stand for something bigger than their product offering. Those brands have made public statements that they believe in women in cycling. These brands are also making public statements about their investments in education and the ultimate growth of the sport of cycling by aligning themselves with a team like TAM that supports education programs. This was a genius move by TAM Cycling, by the way, because it gives supporting brands an opportunity to show an audience they believe in something bigger than themselves.
Supporting a belief is not enough if your audience isn’t aware of that support.
Now, we’re excited to see brands like these making a stance for women in cycling and education, but we think there’s a missed opportunity in this scenario. Brands like Felt, SRAM, and Zipp have all made an incredible stance for women in cycling, education and long-term growth of the sport of cycling… kudos. The missed opportunity is that these brands aren’t doing a great job telling those stories or communicating this investment to their audience. Yes, they may be telling these stories occasionally, but we still see more “this is what our product does!” storytelling coming out of these brands than stories with any real purpose. These are the stories people want to hear about, these are the stories audiences of these brands want to get behind, and these are the stories that will affect an audience at a much deeper level. Yes, there is absolutely a place for “this is what our product does different” storytelling, but we believe there is missed opportunities in the imbalance. As consumers, we want to know and belief that these brands stand for something more important than their bottom dollar and product offering. When we know that, we’re more likely to give our loyalty and advocacy to these brands. Consumers want to proudly state that, “I ride Zipp, not because their product is technologically superior to all other wheels, but because Zipp believes in something that I believe in, and I’ll pay more to Zipp to support their investment in teams like TAM Cycling who are doing great things for the growth of the sport of cycling.”
Let’s face it, for 99% of consumers there is no real difference in performance between one carbon wheel to the next, and the difference in technological advancements from one brand wheel to the next gets smaller with each new offering and brand on the market. In this day and age, the brands that set themselves apart by believing and investing in something bigger than their product offering will be the brands that come out on top. SRAM, Felt, and Zipp all understand this, and they’ve made a statement to the world that they’re worthy of our support by investing in teams like TAM Cycling, a team who is practicing the same purpose driven practices themselves. We just believe that all the brands above need to tell those stories more often, so more people are aware of what these brands believe in at their core.