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Nicola Conte, the Assos Sales and Marketing Manager.
Nicola Conte, the Assos Sales and Marketing Manager.

“Sponsor yourself” for the love of cycling

17. novembre 2008

In 2008, few could argue with the fact that the BMC Racing Team sported the best kit in professional cycling.

After taking a long hiatus from sponsoring a commercial racing team, Assos joined forces with the Swiss-American Pro Continental team largely because the two companies shared a meeting of the minds regarding their philosophy about cycling.  Turning their backs on the “results at any cost” culture which for many years has dominated the sport, both Assos and BMC want to promote clean racing for the love of being on the bike. They believe this strong work ethic will win the team concrete and intangible victories. After a successful 2008 campaign, and looking forward to an even bigger 2009 season, Assos and BMC can use the winter months to reflect on the past year and plan for their expanding future.

Speaking with Nicola Conte, the Assos Sales and Marketing Manager, offers a further insight into the clothing company which represents the Mercedes-Benz in the cycling clothing world.

Assos has been pretty selective in who it has sponsored recently, so what made you want to join forces with BMC in particular?

Nicola Conte: “Sponsor Yourself” is our motto, which says all about our philosophy: Assos considers each single customer his most valuable professional racer, therefore the truth is that we always had a huge pro-team, riding and winning the every-day challenge on the roads of the whole World! If we decided, after more then 10 years, to go back into the game of official sponsorship, it’s because we found in BMC the perfect and unique match in values, quality of the product, high technology and link to all people with a deep and real passion for cycling as a lifestyle.

I have read that Assos' primary interest in sponsoring is for rider feedback.  What are some of the more helpful comments to come from the riders and how has that translated into product alterations?
That is true. And it was a compliment that most feedback was just about how good and comfortable and high performing our apparel equipment is. Anyway, for sure working under the pressure and the high expectations of a pro team rider forces (and helps!) us to be more reactive and to take into consideration all of the comments and suggestions which translate into product improvements and developments. Under the guidance of the BMC Team, we are optimizing the durability of the fabrics and the performance of each element in our “Team Gear Collection”, defining all details which might make the difference in racing, such as special inside pockets for the radio, new lighter and more transpirant materials...

Assos will also sponsors a couple national federations in 2009.  Sponsoring Switzerland makes sense but Brazil is a less obvious choice.  Is this one way Assos contributes to the development of cycling round the world?

Exactly. As stated before, we are looking for partners sharing our same values. The Red Crossed Team makes sense to us not only because it’s one of the best in the world, but also (especially) because the Swiss Federation has a vision to grow cycling as an educational tool (we give material to all riders in all categories, form kids to adults, from road bike to cycle-cross) and a lifestyle. Brazil is not as important as a team and will probably never win a gold medal at the Olympics, but we see things the same way. And, afterwards, we are not necessarily always looking at the return of an investment: Brazil is different and fun, we like working with them!

From a sponsor's point of view, what are the biggest challenges facing cycling today?
We don’t consider ourselves much as a “sponsor”. Or, better, we like to think of ourselves as sponsors of the pleasure to ride a bike in total comfort and to favour the best possible performance. And, under this perspective, maybe the biggest challenge is to be able to ride figuratively side by side with our customer or partner, along a road which might be long, congested and full of climbs, within an environment where money and immediate results often overwhelm the true passion.

What in your mind will make this sponsorship endeavour a success?  Increased sales? Increased exposure? Additional R+D data?

Additional R+D data is for sure helping us in our main target, the continuous improvement of our products, which will finally lead to increased exposure and sales. Nevertheless the real success will be to demonstrate that the joint forces of partners claiming to simply produce the best performing cycling tools on earth, brings to far-reaching results and overall contributes to the growth of the whole industry.