Last week the route for next year’s inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was unveiled by the great man himself.
The course looks like a beauty, starting at the Geelong waterfront and taking in Cadel’s hometown of Barwon Heads and on to Torquay and a section of the Great Ocean Road, before heading inland back to Geelong.
Members of the public can participate in the Momentum Energy People’s Ride, an event taking in the official course. Here is a chance, albeit at a slower pace, to get a taste of what the elite riders will experience and to ride with like minded fans of the sport.
Knowing there’d be keen interest for the limited places available, I didn’t hesitate to jump on the website and sign up in the pre-registration period which closed last Friday.
There’s a choice of 107-kilometre and 65-kilometre rides, with entry fees of $128 for the long ride and $95 for the short. Cycling Australia members receive a $10 discount.
The fee gets you an official jersey, musette bag, plus mechanical support and first aid on the course.
This is all good and well, but there’s just one sticking point. The official jersey carries a rather prominent logo of the principle sponsor Momentum Energy. In fairness it’s not at the level of the Bupa Challenge Tour Down Under jersey, but it’s hard to miss.
Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not having a go at Momentum. The company is a 100 per cent Australian owned energy retailer dedicated to renewable energy. That’s a good thing, right? It also supports, according to the website, local communities through sponsorships, “…which provide positive experiences of the Momentum Energy brand across sports, arts and culture, sustainability projects, business groups, ambassadors and community partnerships.”
The company also supports cycling. In 2012 it made Tasmanian and sprint champion Matthew Goss an ambassador in which he starred in a TV commercial comparing his power output on a bike to the energy required by household appliances.
Sounds like a company that ticks all the right boxes. Heck, I might even go and sign up with them to power my toaster.
My beef is not with Momentum, it’s with the jersey. Effectively you the punter are paying for the privilege of advertising a business. Hang on, if they’re sponsoring the event shouldn’t they be paying riders to wear their logo?
You don’t really get a choice here, the jersey is part of the compulsory kit list. Oh, and did I mention there’s additional kit such as knicks, caps, t-shirts and bidons available for purchase?
When it comes to cycling wear I don’t go full lycra, I wear plain black cycling shorts and unbranded cycling jacket – and a plain t-shirt if it’s hot.
However, there is one bit of loud kit I own, a jersey bought as a souvenir in Sicily. It’s very bright in red, yellow, orange and white print on breathable fabric. It features the island’s symbol the trinacria with the head of Medusa and three legs. It has a small logo of the jersey maker and ‘Sicilia’ printed on the shoulders. Oh yes, it has a graphic of orange slices in the midriff.
It looks kind of weird but I love it. Best part is it’s not emblazoned with logos flogging Fiats or grissini breadsticks.
I accept we live in an age where brand is king and companies invest a great deal in nurturing their brands through partnerships and sponsorships. Good on them for doing that but how far is too far?
Take this week’s Melbourne Cup. Title sponsor Emirates has its logo on everything down to the saddlecloth. The Cup presentation speech from Emirates Australia head honcho Barry Brown sounded more like a sales pitch than about the race that stops a nation.
With Cadel Evans at the centre of the event in the final race of his career, there’s sure to be a lot of media attention. This is the sort of exposure marketers dream of. Smart move by Momentum and long after the race is run every time a punter pulls on their souvenir jersey they will go forth and advertise.
Sports fans often will shell out a lot for supporter gear. For example, a Manchester United jersey from the club’s online megastore will set you back about $120. I assume they throw in the Chevrolet logo for free. To me paying to be a mobile billboard makes about as much sense as forking out for imported bottled water when there’s perfectly good water in the tap or buying a jam jar with a handle stuck on the side.
I don’t think I’m alone in my reservations here. Perhaps the People’s Ride organisers could offer official logo and no logo options and lower the entry fee or offer discounts to Momentum customers who go the official jersey route.
The currently silent and vacant sporting landscape has brought on much reflection. Many Australian competitions appear likely to go to ruin in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and concerns around what our sporting face will look like in a few months are genuine.
Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.