The road to self-sustainability

It was back in 2016 that I first became interested in how the pro cycling sponsorship model works. Quickly realising how flawed the model was, with well-loved teams regularly folding due to inadequate funding, it struck me that the model could be updated to make at least one pro team self-sustainable.

At the time, it was also clear that brick and mortar retailers were struggling to compete with e-commerce. However, the cycle market was still lacking a user-friendly platform with which consumers could interact in a straightforward manner, comparable to Amazon.
It occurred to me that an online platform of that kind could match independent retailers with consumers, and simultaneously provide a pro-cycling team with funding.

My family and I began developing the concept in early 2016. Once the basis for our website was in place, we began to approach retailers – all of which were very supportive of the project, and especially of the team-funding concept. From there, our growth has been mostly word of mouth, with retailers, brands and distributors contacting us on a daily basis.

Today, the Aqua Blue Sport website plays host to over 100 retailers, brands and distributors originating from all aspects of the cycling industry. Of course, we’re always looking to develop further; we regularly implement changes and improvements based on client requirements.

Our goal is to be the world’s first self-sustained squad. Riders are selected based on their desire to be a part of our project, their belief in hard work, self-drive and of course, their talent as a rider. It’s hugely important to us that our riders are team players, and I believe we have created a very, very special environment as a result. No matter what role you play, you have a voice; every member of the team has direct access to each other, and this has brought about a fantastic cohesive culture.

Staying with that theme, we’ve also visited various stores across the UK and Ireland with a number of our riders, introducing them to customers. These days have proven to be very successful days for the stores, and it is something we are keen to continue supporting.

There is absolutely no denying that independent retailers are being challenged by the presence of online giants, and we’re very keen to offer our aid in this particular regard. We’ve implemented a user-friendly and cost-effective online strategy, which gives it a co-operative feel. The Aqua team can take on the majority of the work required to kick-start and maintain an online presence.

From a retailer perspective, it’s very simple. A retailer will be assigned an account manager, who will offer a package to suit individual needs. We will create your store on the site and supply you with your own store URL, which includes all your store’s contact information. We’ll also upload your entire product portfolio, either from scratch or by choosing from our database of over 10,000 pre-built products. From there, depending on your package requirements, we will begin to advertise your store and products across many forms of digital advertising including Google Adwords, Google Shopping, social media campaigns, the riders social channels, and our email database of 55,000.

Our long-term goal is to be able to offer riders a career path at Aqua Blue Sport long after the bike is mothballed; this is something we are extremely passionate about. An example is with Martyn Irvine – he retired as a rider last year and is now excelling in his training as a DS. The rest of 2018 is looking very promising for the company as a whole. The pro team is performing well on the road, while the backroom team is driving transactions, traffic and brand awareness. Due to demand, we have just launched the option for our retailers to offer swim and run product lines on the site. We have also just recruited a team in Australia to introduce the e-commerce platform to the market down under. Next stop, the USA!

This article was written by Jamie Delaney, director of Aqua Blue Sport 

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