It looks like Nike’s relationship with the sport of cycling may be coming to an end. BikeBiz have announced the end of Nike’s tie-up with Trek, the largest bike company in the US, with whom they market their cycling clothing and shoes. Nike say that this does not necessarily mark the end of their involvement with the sport, but with all but handful of Nike Cycling employees laid off, it’s not looking promising.
Over recent years, Nike has had a refreshing presence in a market more used to traditional European brands. Their sponsorship of Lance Armstrong has been a powerful force in cycling marketing. When, in 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer he was released from his professional contract with Cofidis. With a life-threatening illness and no medical insurance, Armstrong’s sponsors at Nike, along with Oakley and Giro, agreed to cover all his medical expenses.
The man who looked like his life would soon be over not only survived, but went on to win the Tour de France an unprecedented seven consecutive times, capturing the world’s imagination with his survival story. It seems that Nike’s investment paid off. Many times over.
But now, following his retirement in 2005, Lance Armstrong’s status as a sports personality is fading away. And with him goes Nike’s unique hold on cycling.
Nike Cycling was Lance Armstrong. The whole brand was built on one man. Now his career is over, maybe Nike have realised that their presence within the world of cycling needs to be drastically scaled down. Or even ended.
Still, it was a partnership which worked well. Check out this advert – one of several Nike made with Armstrong. Truly inspirational and beautifully put together. It would take the most cynical cyclist not to feel any emotion during the following one minute and 33 seconds.
Thanks to Andy for reminding me of this great advert. You know I’m going to have to buy that road bike now, don’t you?