America’s ‘Moneyball’ Tour de France team just made a clever deal that should make it much more competitive against Chris Froome’s Sky juggernaut

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With a bigger budget, Cannondale-Drapac general manager Jonathan Vaughters says his team could go head to head against top teams like Chris Froome’s Sky squad at the Tour de France. Above, #TDF2017 podium rivals Chris Froome, right, and Rigoberto Urán.
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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The American professional cycling team Cannondale-Drapac, which is currently competing in the Tour de France, announced on Friday that it was teaming up with the Verizon-owned company Oath as its digital-media partner for the 2018 racing season.

After Verizon completed its acquisition of Yahoo in June, it merged Yahoo and AOL, naming the new subsidiary Oath. Oath’s portfolio of 50 media and technology brands includes HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, AOL.com, Tumblr, Yahoo Finance, and Yahoo Mail.

As we previously reported, by 2020, Oath said it wanted its brands to reach 2 billion consumers and pull in up to $2o billion in revenue.

The deal is a nice win for Cannondale-Drapac, which has been looking to increase its exposure and budget, in part so that it can become more competitive against the top teams, including that of defending Tour champion Chris Froome’s Sky team. Froome is on track to win his fourth Tour title on Sunday in Paris. If that happens, Sky will have won five of the past six Tours de France.

Oath_Inc

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The Oath name will appear on Cannondale-Drapac riders’ jerseys and other apparel and gear, and on team cars, starting January 1. Oath’s portfolio includes 50 media and tech brands.
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Oath

Bike racing as ‘untapped potential’

“Our mission at Oath is to build brands people love,” said Stacy Lambatos, Oath’s VP of brand experiences. “There’s untapped potential to grow the global audience in professional cycling. Through our diverse portfolio, we can provide unique content experiences and engaging stories.”

For Cannondale-Drapac general manager Jonathan Vaughters, it’s a partnership that should help get his team’s story out to the world.

“The crux of it is, I think a lot of people look at the Tour de France and say, ‘Well, that’s a beautiful event’ and so on,” Vaughters told Business Insider by phone from the Tour on Friday. “But they don’t understand – even fairly hardcore cycling fans don’t have a true grasp of it – the day-to-day what-it-takes to be an athlete of that level and what these guys’ lives are like.

“This content would be focused on how to bring excellence and high performance – how they do it and how you can bring it to your life, and how cycling is the interface thereof.” In an op-ed for Business Insider in May, Vaughters said cycling represented the best sponsorship deal in sports that brands have been missing out on.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Pro cycling’s ‘Moneyball’ team

For years, Vaughters has led his organization with what he’s referred to as a “Moneyball” strategy, in reference to the baseball bestseller. Cannondale-Drapac has an annual budget of around $15 million, about one-third of Team Sky’s.

“This will obviously help our finances,” Vaughters said. “It also gets us one step closer to competing with big-budget teams like Sky. It gets us one step closer to being financially stable. But we’re still open for more business, let’s put it that way. I don’t want people to read this and think, ‘Oh well, I guess now I can’t be the sponsor’ – because that’s not true. We are still open for business.

“It’s definitely a major deal, but we’re still talking with a number of potential partners to push us to the point where we can take Sky on head to head – which we already are – but really push those guys is what we want to do.”

inside Uran Tour de France stage win

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Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán, right, won stage nine of the 2017 Tour de France in Chambéry.
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Courtesy of Slipstream Sports/Cannondale-Drapac

Cannondale-Drapac is owned by the sports-management holding company Slipstream Sports, which is owned by New York-based private investor Doug Ellis. Cannondale is a US-based bicycle manufacturer and Drapac is an Australian-American real-estate firm.

Asked if the new partnership would allow the team to hit pro cycling’s transfer market and buy up another big rider or two, Vaughters said, “It gets us one step closer to that. It sort of depends on how the other pieces of the puzzle fit in. Like, what is Drapac contributing? What does Cannondale end up contributing? What does maybe a new sponsor contribute? All those pieces determine the overall outcome. But is it a Sky-esque sponsorship? No, it’s not. We’re certainly open to other companies who may want to enter, because we need that.

“We are definitely starting to poke around on the transfer market, no doubt about that. Haven’t made any deals yet, but I also have a lot of trust in the talent we already have, and I feel if we could support them a little bit better, in terms of sports science, coaching, and sort of all the infrastructure needs that they have, I’m sure that talent would grow into being the best out there.”

Vaughters fans Uran TDF2017 stage 9 win behind the scenes

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Jonathan Vaughters at the Tour de France after Rigoberto Urán won stage nine, in Chambéry, July 8, 2017.
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Daniel McMahon/Business Insider

Argyle rising

Cannondale-Drapac is enjoying its best Tour de France in years. As of Friday morning, it had the race’s third-placed rider, Rigoberto Urán of Colombia, who looks poised to stand on the final podium when the race ends on Sunday. Urán won one of this Tour’s hardest, and most dramatic, stages, the ninth, in Chambéry. The squad, nicknamed Argyle Armada, also had a standout start to the Tour with Americans Taylor Phinney and Nathan Brown each donning the polka-dot jersey after leading the “king of the mountains” competition. Phinney has been a popular figure on NBC Sports with his video diaries.

The new deal with Oath was born earlier this year when a former president of AOL’s media group, Luke Beatty, talked to Vaughters and said he felt bike racing had “massive untapped potential for behind-the-scenes-content generation,” according to Vaughters. Beatty attended the Belgian pro race Het Nieuwsblad and was impressed. Vaughters described his reaction after the race as essentially “Oh my gosh – there’s so much we can do with this.” Beatty went back to AOL and effectively said, “Hey, would you look at this seriously? Because I think there’s a big business opportunity for you here,'” Vaughters added. The deal took off from there.

Starting January 1 with Oath, Cannondale-Drapac hopes to generate “a lot of behind-the-scenes content,” Vaughters told Business Insider.

“Obviously content generation is a huge game right now.”

Read the full news release below.

Slipstream announces Oath as exclusive digital media partner for 2018 Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team

Slipstream Sports has partnered with Oath, a digital media company of more than 50 media and technology brands, including HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, Tumblr, Engadget, Autoblog, and AOL.com. Oath will have its brand on team racing kits and vehicles as the Cannondale-Drapac team races over 240 days, across four continents, in the 2018 season. Additionally, Oath and Slipstream will collaborate in creating and distributing exclusive video content and experiences from inside the world of professional cycling. Through this partnership with Oath, Slipstream Sports, which manages the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team, has the potential to reach over one billion consumers globally. Professional cycling is one of the fastest growing sports globally with more than 3.5 billion cumulative global TV viewers watching the World Tour in 190 countries.

“Professional cycling is rich with stories, only a fraction of which are actually told,” said Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of Slipstream Sports. “This partnership will allow us to open up the team in terms of content well beyond what most of the world audience sees. Oath has the platforms, skill and ambition to tell the story of cycling in myriad ways. We want people to see us better, to get to know the riders, the staff, and what it takes to be in pro cycling. And we want to use our position as professionals in the realm of the everyday cyclist, too. This partnership gives us a chance to do all those things.”

“Our mission at Oath is to build brands people love. There’s untapped potential to grow the global audience in professional cycling. Through our diverse portfolio, we can provide unique content experiences and engaging stories,” said Stacy Lambatos, VP of Brand Experiences. “We have the technology and content creators to tell these stories through a new lens, including AR, 360 and Live video. This partnership defines what it means to build brands people love.”

Slipstream and Oath will begin sharing cycling content beginning January 1, 2018. For more on Oath, visit www.oath.com.

About Slipstream

The Cannondale-Drapac Professional Cycling Team is an American-registered UCI World Tour racing team. It competes at the highest level of the sport and strives to be open, attacking, and entertaining. In the 2017 season, it has the youngest roster and one of the most diverse squads in the World Tour. Our riders come from the United States, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Colombia and beyond. For more on Slipstream, visit www.slipstreamsports.com.

About Oath

Oath, a subsidiary of Verizon, is a values-led company committed to building brands people love. We reach over one billion people around the world with a dynamic house of 50+ media and technology brands. A global leader in digital and mobile, Oath is shaping the future of media. For more on Oath, visit www.oath.com.