Bob Stapleton, head honcho of Team High Road, announced today that he has signed Columbia Sportswear as a primary sponsor of his wildly successful professional men's and women's cycling teams. The three year deal will put substantial cash as well as outerwear, sportswear, shoes and luggage on both his men's and women's teams with the name changing from High Road to Team Columbia. With many of it's 4000 employees located in both France and Switzerland, Stapleton commented that Columbia saw this as a "cost effective marketing tool to expand their brand in Europe."
The seeds of the deal began back in 2005 when Stapleton approached the Portland-based sportswear company to help sponsor his woman's team. "I wasn't going to start looking for a sponsor until after the Tour," noted the founder of VoiceStream Wireless also a pacific northwest-based company.
The sponsorship begins immediately with the unveiling of the new kit at the Tour de France on July 3rd in Brest. Obviously, the Columbia Sportswear logo will be the most prominent feature with the primary colors being blue, black, yellow and white. "You will still see High Road on there. It is the brand of my company and I have grown fond of seeing it on the jersey," added Stapleton.
The team's racing schedule will not change to reflect the North American sponsor. "There will be no change in direction of the team. They want us to be active on both continents," said the man whose men's and women's teams have won over 70 races so far this season.
Bob also answered questions about the state of the sport and how it affects attracting new sponsors. Probably the hottest topic is the brewing conflict and probably split between the UCI and ASO. "It is very much an open issue. I think you could see two rival circuits for some time; probably not for long. It is a big headache for the teams and it may put athletes at risk. It creates some uncertainty as to what sponsors are buying. I am not excited about the power struggle, but I think we http://community.active.com/blogs/BruceHildenbrand/2008/06/16/columbia-sportswear-follows-the-high-road/High Road can navigate it effectively," noted Stapleton.
As to his role in resolving the conflict, "I am a centrist. It is the biggest benefit I have as an outsider. Some of the issues are personal. Some people just don't get along. I try to be the peacemaker."