There is more to sponsorship than just moving product, especially when a sponsor doesn’t have a product to sell
Words and photos: Colin Levitch
Quite often brands and riders alike simplify sponsor agreements in mountain biking into becoming the ‘face’ of a product to help sell more units. But there is so much more to sponsor agreements than just hawking a product, and every party involved is trying to get something different out of a relationship.
Don’t get me wrong; some sponsorships are about selling bikes, why do you think Canyon sponsors Troy Brosnan or Trek Jolanda Neff? Because by supporting these athletes, in turn, these brands are associated with extremely marketable athletes who can feature in global advertising campaigns.
However there is value in mountain biking beyond selling, and the vast majority of sponsorship doesn’t involve globally recognisable athletes, contracts with massive dollar amounts or even companies that sell bikes.
Field Engineers, as the name implies is an engineering consulting firm based in Mackay Queensland and has been a partner of the Mad (Mackay and District) Mountain Bike climb since it was formed in 2009.
“No we don’t expect to sell anything, we don't expect to sell our services through supporting mountain biking, we are after the people that are involved in mountain biking,” says Field Engineers General Manager David Hartigan. “In the immediate term we are looking to build brand awareness as an employer, and in the longer term we want to promote engineering. We just want to get engineering in front of teenagers and the adolescent and youth element of mountain biking to hopefully get them interested in the field.”
Hartigan and the other directors of Field Engineers—who all happen to be mountain bikers—noticed that in the engineering world, a lot of people gravitated towards bikes, and he thinks it might have something to do with the tech element of the sport.
“You know dropper seat posts, suspension, the arrival of electronic shifting, the material science that goes into frame manufacturing, the pneumatics that goes into tyres all that sort of stuff appeals to engineers.”
“We reckon there is probably the connection between people who have some trade or technical background; they seem to gravitate toward mountain biking in their young adult life because they find it easy to understand. From that, there could also be a flow of people who are into mountain biking and come to enjoy all those technical and engineer type elements, and then they drift into studying engineering,” he says.
With nothing to sell, Field Engineers is using its sponsorship of the Mad Mountain Bike club in some ways like a hyper-targeted Seek.com advertisement because they see value trying to attract young engineers as an employer. They are so keen to get their brand out to technically minded riders the company has upped its investment and is now the title sponsor of the Mad MTB Field Engineers Mackay Cup which is part of the MTBA National Round and run UCI XCO races this year.
“A key thing we are wanting is further reach, and we could just take out standard advertising in other cities, but there is no emotional connection there,” he says. “But, when people have a sport, they are interested in, and are passionate about, if they know that a company is also interested and passionate and supports that same activity, there is a degree of common cause. That is what we are trying to make use of.”