Team Jumbo-Visma goes to the Tour de France with a ninth man
Brest, 26 June: the moment when Team Jumbo-Visma will start in ‘La Grande Boucle...
In January the Tour Down Under, in February some small stage races and then working through the spring classics to the three grand tours. This would have roughly been the program of the World Tour peloton. This also applies to Team Jumbo-Visma, the only Dutch cycling team to compete at the highest level. The squad with top riders such as Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic and Wout van Aert was ready to fire their guns. Until corona threw a spanner in the works at the beginning of March.
The buses and trucks were no longer loaded. The legs were no longer massaged by the soigneurs. No interviews, autographs or photos with fans for the professional cyclists. Bib numbers were no longer pinned. The world was hit by the corona pandemic and the entire cycling peloton slowly came to a halt. One race organisation squeezed the brakes earlier than another, but eventually everyone got in the broom wagon.
Uncertain weeks followed. Will there be any racing at all this year? Surely the Tour de France will continue? Team Jumbo-Visma was disappointed. After a good 2019, in which the team managed to win more than fifty times, the Dutch team went all out for the yellow dream: winning the Tour de France.
In cycling, races are the best way to provide sponsors with exposure. The big races are broadcasted in countless countries and reach a large audience. This added value for sponsors also disappeared: no races, no TV broadcasts, no exposure. Or at least a lot less. Though that desired exposure can also be offered in times without live sports, Team Jumbo-Visma showed in the period without racing.
Sander Kruis, commercial manager at Team Jumbo-Visma, can still remember his reaction to the loss of many sports competitions. “Both me and my colleagues were very disappointed. We all love sports and everyone wants to contribute to it. Our work revolves around sports and that was completely gone. It really was a bit of a switch in the beginning.” His colleague Jasper Saeijs, marketing manager at the Dutch team, did not find it easy as a sports fan that he had ended up in this situation.
"We were really looking forward to this season, both from a sports point of view and commercially. We were ready to perform in a fantastic way, while also creating visibility for our partners."
In the weeks that followed, many meetings were held at Team Jumbo-Visma. In a digital way, of course. After all, working from home was the national advice in the Netherlands. “It emerged from those meetings that we as a team wanted and had to attack this situation in order to come out in a stronger way”, Saeijs says. “We didn’t look at the limitations, but at the opportunities. From a marketing perspective we wanted to be visible despite no races being held. Even without races, how could we keep involving the fans and our partners with the team? How could we, as a team, still ensure sufficient exposure for our partners? And could we also find a way to address our social responsibility by encouraging people to exercise enough, despite the situation? We asked ourselves those kinds of questions. Quite a lot of initiatives emerged from that.”
All these initiatives were linked on a landing page with the theme ‘Stay Safe Together’. The webpage featured interviews with riders, it was possible to play various quizzes and a new talk show was published every week in which riders looked back on special moments in their career. For example, Tom Dumoulin and Jos van Emden looked back on the Giro d’Italia of 2017, when Van Emden won the final time trial and Dumoulin took the overall victory. Dylan Groenewegen also had a chat in one of the talk shows and spoke about his victory on the Champs-Élysées, together with ex-teammate and current sports director of the Jumbo-Visma Development Team, Robert Wagner. Fans of Team Jumbo-Visma could not only listen to the riders of Team Jumbo-Visma, but they could even meet their idols. Via a digital ‘Meet & Greet’ it was possible for cycling enthusiasts to ask the riders questions. Healthy diet tips were also shared, fitness exercises were performed by the top athletes, and mechanics explained how to maintain your bike.
It was also possible for cycling fans to keep in touch with Team Jumbo-Visma on a sporting level. Online training rides were organised, which enabled everyone with a Tacx trainer to ride with one or more professional riders. “Per ‘social ride’, as we called it, one or two thousand people rode along”, Saeijs says. “We noticed that people wanted to stay busy. In this way, they both stayed in touch with the team and they kept active. A win-win situation. Our internal competition resulted from these social rides. For four weeks, our riders competed every Sunday on Tacx trainers for the victory in the online cycling environment Zwift. The race was broadcast on the website of the Algemeen Dagblad and the social media channels of the cycling team. After the race, the riders were interviewed, as is the case after a real race. That helped us to create a lot of exposure. We had the media value of all our initiatives measured. This study showed that we achieved more media value in the spring of 2020 than in the spring of 2019. It is unprecedented that we managed to achieve more media value in a period without competitions than with competitions. In this way we really provided our partners with a good amount of exposure. We can be proud that, despite such a difficult period, we managed to achieve this.”
At the time, commercial manager Kruis kept in close contact with sponsors and received cheerful responses. “They found it admirable how we were looking for opportunities to get ‘in the picture’. That was very much appreciated, and it helped us maintain our good relationships with partners in a less easy time.”
Team Jumbo-Visma was also busy in the field of hospitality. While in normal times it is possible to visit the team at a race, this was not possible this year due to all the corona measures. “After it had become clear that it would be difficult to receive guests at races, we also looked for alternatives in this area”, says Claudia van Berkel, sponsorship coordinator at Team Jumbo-Visma. “Normally we offer a hospitality program where guests are really part of the team. Guests arrive the day before the stage and get a dinner. Then they take a look at the team hotel and have a chat with the team. In the morning they will have a look at the start of the stage. During the stage, the guests will be on the side a few times to follow the race, but also to provide the riders with bottles. In this way we offer guests a real cycling experience. For our bigger sponsors we offer a truly exclusive package, where it is possible to take a seat in the sports directors’ car during the race. It’s a great pity that this is currently not possible, because it’s a very cool experience for the guests. We also notice this through the positive reactions from guests. It’s an experience you can’t have in any other sport. Getting so close to the riders and the peloton is what makes our hospitality program so great.”
An alternative was developed: a hospitality experience in the Netherlands where corona measures could be observed. “Thanks to our partner Shimano we were able to visit the Shimano Experience Center in Valkenburg. There we could safely receive groups of thirty people. Those viewing events were a combination of cycling itself and watching a stage in the Tour de France. We tried to incorporate that unique flavour of our offer into the viewing events. It had a real Team Jumbo-Visma feeling. For example: we drove behind the cycling groups with team cars and sports director Merijn Zeeman told us on a daily basis what he expected from the stage that the guests would attend. We can certainly use this concept again in the future and apply it to our total offer. It’s a very nice addition to the current activities of our team in the field of hospitality.”
Cycling remains the core business of Team Jumbo-Visma, but the team has shown that it is not only good at cycling fast. Taking initiative and showing courage suits the Dutch cycling team and this became once more clear during the difficult corona crisis: exposure in a time without exposure. A strong example of crisis management from Team Jumbo-Visma.
Source: Hollands Sport & Industry