Michael Hartley is an engineer for T-Mobile's British operation, based at the company's HQ in Hatfield. He's a cycle-sport fan but reckons T-Mobile's sponsorship of the Tour of Britain will not just excite enthusiasts, it could get many T-Mobile employees out of their cars and on to bicycles. The company has a new Bicycle User Group and is keen to lever its sponsorship of the Tour internally as well as externally.

“T-Mobile’s sponsorship makes me proud to work here.”

T-Mobile employs 8300 people in the UK, 4500 work at the Hatfield HQ. This is on a business park that, for planning reasons, limits the number of car parking places. Finding a space to park is therefore a problem during commuter periods. It clearly makes a lot of sense for the company to get its workers to love bicycles.

There’s talk of buying a fleet of bikes to create a ‘pool’, with employees encouraged to use the freely-provided bicycles to ride to and from work, and on lunch-time shopping trips.

The company is well down the road to full membership of the Booost discount bike-buying scheme for employees but if a fleet of staff bicycles were purchased it’s likely they would be Giant bicycles. Giant is the road-bike supplier of the T-Mobile professional cycle team.

The company’s Bicycle User Group – BUG – has been successful at encouraging would-be car commuters to travel by bicycle. Many employees live within five miles of the business park, there’s a rail station close by, with links to and from London, and there are good traffic-free cycle paths from St Albans and Hatfield. More than a hundred T-Mobile workers use the under-cover secure bike parking each day. There are also showers and other facilities deemed necessary to get commuters to ditch their cars and choose bikes instead. Biker breakfasts could be next.

Michael Hartley cycles each day and said the existing facilties have been put in place to entice the enthusiasts first.

"There are big BUG plans for next year," he said.

"There’s to be an intranet site, a publicity splash during Bike Week, regular Dr Bike sessions, possibly hook ups with local bike shops for demo days. I’m looking at being trained as an instructor in the hope of running ‘driver conversion courses’."

Hartley is ecstatic about T-Mobile’s sponsorship of the Tour of Britain. He believes many T-Mobile employees will come to share his love of cycle sport.

The company’s intranet site has been calling for volunteers to hand out freebies at the stage starts and finishes. Freebies – or should that be magenta-coloured branded-merchandise? – such as inflatable pink hands.

T-Mobile brings its own hand inflating staff from Germany. They sit with air compressors in eezee-up style tents, inflating hundreds of hand-out hands. Five hundred were handed out at the Manchester start yesterday. Many hundreds more were given away at the city centre finish.

The three-year deal to support Britain’s Tour is a chance to "cut through the sponsorship clutter," said Trevor Gornall, one of the project sponsorship managers for T-Mobile at the Tour of Britain.

"We now concentrate on music and sport. We sponsor football and cycling but whereas everybody else also sponsors football, not everybody sponsors cycling so in the UK it’s a chance for ‘ownership’"

And this is an international strategic sponsorship decision:

"Cycling as a global sponsoring issue makes an important contribution to our international communications effort," said Rene Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile International AG & Co. KG.


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