A taste of competition
by Jay Batson
This isn't a high-falutin', high-thinking blog post. It's just about the kind of culture we have here.
So when a set of local pro cycling race promoters told me they were looking for a sponsor for a group of 5 local races that they wanted to pull together under the monniker New England Race Week, I signed up (once I could identify enough corporate payoff.)
Acquia became the title sponsor for yellow jersey given to the professional bike racer with the lowest cumulative time across all five races (8 actual days of racing, since the last race was a 4-day stage race).
Why would we spend money doing this? Well, it wasn't an easy decision. But John Roberts, the CEO of SugarCRM, had told me a couple of months ago that he had been sponsoring some local races out of pure love for the sport, but that there had been a huge payoff in recruiting locally. Cycling is fast becoming a sport of choice for lots of techies (particularly in the valley), and once his company got known for having a cycling-oriented culture, all kinds of cyclists started to show up applying for jobs. His claim is that the amount he's spent on sponsorships has been more than offset in the savings on recruiter fees.
He made a convincing enough case that I thought I'd give RaceWeek a try. My sponsorship wasn't quite enough to raise all the cash that RaceWeek needed, so I emailed John, and he (happily) contributed the little we needed to top off the sponsorship. (And bought himself jersey positioning in the process.) Thanks, John!
As part of our sponsorship, we had the ability to put up tents at various races and give out promo stuff. So I took Elaine (Sales) and Linda (consulting HR) with me to pass out Acquia water bottles to spectators. We gave out nearly 400 bottles.
And it has already paid off. We've had both sales leads and job candidates that have come in the door based on handing out bottles. Woo hoo!
Plus, the races were really exciting, and it was a ton of fun handing out the leaders' jersey at the end of races.
After the first race, Kyle Wamsley of the Colavita Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light U.S. domestic pro team was in yellow. Bike races start out by putting the leaders at the head of the pack, announcing them one at a time, and Kyle was looking buff and fast in his yellow jersey, having won the day before in the Cox Charities Cycling Classic in Providence, RI.
Kyle would go on to hold onto the yellow all week. Later in the week, during the four-day Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, Kyle would either win a day, or place in the top group. He came in second at the top of the Road Race that finished atop Wachusett Mountain ski area, but only by a second or two. It was foggy at the top, given the temperature gradient and the humidity, but I got to present the jersey anyway.
In the Fitchburg race, Kyle was also the stage leader, so he wore the orange jersey for that title. During that time, the second-best overall placed rider wore yellow, as is tradition.
But at the end, it was Kyle for the men. He was a really happy guy. He said it had been his best overall week of racing for the year, and was really pumped. It was fun to be a tiny part of his success.
And I discovered the real fun of watching the women's pro teams, too. Kyle's Colavita team also produced the women's winner for the week, Kristin McGrath. She was definitely speedy, being in most of the breakaways on the last day of the Criterium in Fitchburg. Though she didn't win the stage, she kept yellow.
(She also had the yellow, and won the stage, atop Mt. Wachusett earlier in the week. Another rider with a huge / strong week.)
I'm sure I could draw some CEO-ish metaphor about how supporting champions like this reflects the championship attitude we have in our company. In fact, I would hope that was true. But it would be a lame posting, so I won't make a huge point out of it. ;-)
But I'd be wrong if I said this wasn't worth the cost, or the effort. I love rewarding achievement; I love seeing the thrill of competitive cycling up close, and I think we came away from the week with tangible payoff from our sponsorship. What more could I, or we, ask for?