Cycling has never been more popular in terms of participants but at the professional level, teams stop when their sponsor contracts stop and traditional race formats are struggling to engage with new fans. The pace of innovation in technology and ideas needs to increase, something pioneered by Velon, its teams and partners.
Professional cycling teams invest more than €400 million per year in the sport. This represents more than 50% of the total investment in professional road cycling. However, professional teams are completely dependent on sponsorship revenues, which make up approximately 94% of their income.
Teams finance the sporting careers of some 750 riders by investing an average of 73% of their entire budget in riders and staff. The teams are also financially subsidising many traditional races. They participate in and support approximately 500 standalone races per year; often based on nominal participation fees (not sufficient to cover their costs of attendance) and, more often than not, offering little if any relevant exposure to their sponsor funders. These 500 races provide no “narrative” for fans to connect to.
It is accepted by almost everyone in the sport, including the UCI, that this model needs to be radically changed in order to make it more stable and to attract new investment, to teams and to races. In 2014, 11 of the best teams in the world created a new company - Velon - with the primary objective of introducing new ideas to the sport and changing the way it does business. The strategy was not to fight for redistribution of the existing money, but to generate new revenues from new business through innovation and greater fan engagement.
Velon’s entire business model is based on collaboration and partnerships. Velon has partnered with most race organisers (including the three largest in A.S.O, RCS and Flanders Classics), many UCI WorldTour and Pro Continental Teams and some of the world’s leading media and technology companies to produce engaging fan content and grow the appeal of the sport.
Together with the teams, race organisers and other partners, Velon has strived to create two of the biggest innovations in the sport in its recent history.
The Hammer Series
Until 2017, pro-road cycling had not seen a new race format in its entire modern history. Many other global sports have successfully adopted fast-paced, shorter formats. In 2017 Velon launched “Hammer” – a new Team v Team, impact racing concept for the fans with the intention of creating a truly global series that ran through the season to a grand finale, to crown the world’s best team – proven on the road.
Today Hammer comprises three races, with the ambition to grow this to 10 races over the next few years. It has delivered 22.5 million video views of the first three seasons and proved a clear favourite with fans, riders and teams alike.
VelonLive is a fan engaging digital content and live data platform which, over the last three years, has generated hundreds of millions of views and new engagements on Velon’s own channels and those of its partners. The massive amplifying effect of delivering this content to fans through the digital platforms of both Velon, its race partners and the Velon teams (and the other WorldTour and Pro Continental teams who partner with Velon), VelonLive offers the single biggest social media platform dedicated to the sport.
In a recent UCI survey, the response was emphatic from the fans – more of the video, data and other content Velon has pioneered since 2015 such as:
A unique, real-time biometric rider data system which increases fan engagement and insight into professional cycling races. No other sport in the world offers live performance data like Velon.
Live and delayed on-bike action video from many races throughout the season to let the fans see the race from the inside.
Behind-the-scenes access to the teams via video which broadcasters around the world can now access to enhance the way they show the race.
The VelonLive platform shows 78% year on year growth in terms of reach to the current and new fans of the sport and more new content and ideas are planned for 2020.