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From the mag: Industry hopes for Olympic bump

Published July 27, 2012

LONDON—For the first time, NBC Sports will air live every event in every sport during the London Olympics—either on one of its broadcast or cable channels or online.

But given the time difference between London and the U.S., the cycling industry will have to hope that the races are compelling enough to earn significant time on NBC’s prime-time recap, which is the jewel of the network’s 17-day coverage. Cycling will be competing with such traditionally high-profile sports as swimming, gymnastics and track and field.

“This will be the most comprehensively covered event in television history,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, in a conference call. He said more than 200 million Americans are expected to tune in during the games.

NBC and its associated networks will broadcast 5,535 hours from the Olympics, which Lazarus said would equal seven-and-a-half months of continuous coverage if done just on one network.

While the Olympics provide a huge global platform for cycling, it’s overshadowed—at least on the road side—by the world’s top events.

“We believe you get some sort of halo effect on interest levels based on the Olympics,” said Greg Cowan of Castelli USA. “For us it’s probably similar to a world championships. The major events, of course, are the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta and the spring classics, and then you probably have the world championships and the Olympics.”

Perhaps the biggest anticipation comes from the BMX community, which hopes the sport will get finally the recognition many had expected from the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

BMX debuted as an Olympic sport in Beijing, but coverage was disappointing. Heavy rains pushed the BMX races out of prime time and relegated them to reduced coverage in the U.S.

Pete Dylewski of BMX Racing Group said many had expected the Beijing Olympics to be a boon for BMX, similar to the boost that Olympian Shaun White gave to snowboarding.

“Everyone in the bicycle industry looked at snowboarding and said, ‘Man, Shaun White, medals, snowboarding is so much bigger than it was,’ and everyone just expected a huge boom to happen,” Dylewski said. “We all sat back and waited for it, and nothing ever happened.”

Dylewski was a commentator for the Beijing games. The BMX Racing Group is the parent company of the Chase brand, which sponsors Olympian Connor Fields.

Dylewski said the London games could give the boost that the industry hoped for from Beijing—but only if an American breaks through. “Someone from America has to get a gold medal for it to really be capitalized within America—or, at least, one of the other bigger countries like Australia or Japan,” he said.

On the road side, the Olympics don’t carry the cachet of the major races. The Tour, for example, rolls to its conclusion down the Champs-Élysées just six days before the men’s Olympic road race takes place in London.
Cervélo sees the Olympics as “the icing on the cake” for the bigger events, said Brian Dillman, Cervélo’s executive vice president.

“In a year where we’ve won the Giro [with Ryder Hesjedal] and we’ve got some good momentum going into the Tour, to me this is like an ‘extra’ year. We’ll take all the extra we can,” Dillman said.

He said the marketing impact of an Olympic medal is more dependent on the country the athlete represents than a global impact.

“We had a nice bump when Ryder won the Giro, and if he continues on and does well for Canada I’m sure that will be another inspirational piece for the Canadian market,” Dillman said. “If Tyler [Farrar] does well for the U.S., that will obviously do well for our U.S. retailers.”

Scott Sports’ Adrian Montgomery said a recent agreement allowing larger and more brand logos on Olympic bikes is helpful. But Olympic marketing rules are so restrictive brands have to be careful how they portray any victories.

“Will we sell more bikes because of our Olympic involvement? Who knows?” Montgomery said. “This is the pinnacle of the sport. If you look at how the athletes react to it, they treat it as more important than a World Cup win and even on par with a world championship.”

Topics associated with this article: Racing & Sponsorship

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