Lance Armstrong's popularity not only extends to pulling fans 'through the aisles' but also sponsors. This in a sport that needs every dollar it can get its hands on right now.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

With the 2011 season about to begin at the Santos Tour Down Under and
Lance Armstrong set to compete in his last international event in
Adelaide we have more confirmation of the drawing power of the
seven-time Tour de France winner.

Armstrong's popularity not only
extends to pulling fans 'through the aisles' but also sponsors. This in
a sport that needs every dollar it can get its hands on right now.

Simply put the Texan is a money spinner, an athlete who brings more than talent to the playing field.

A report in the US financial publication Bloomberg
revealed that the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), organisers of the
Tour de France, saw a marked increase in revenue stemming from the 2009
comeback of Armstrong.

Coincidentally this piece of news also
justifies the investment by South Australian Tourism and the State
Government in getting Armstrong to Adelaide.

The headline in Bloomberg says it all: "Lance Armstrong's Comeback Helped Add $32 Million to Tour Owner Income."

How
was Armstrong's contribution to the burgeoning ASO coffers measured?
His presence at the 2009 Tour de France and rivalry with then teammate
Alberto Contador prompted sponsors like Skoda and Orange to renew their
partnerships with the ASO.

"The Armstrong-Contador duel was certainly not irrelevant to the success of the race," quoted Bloomberg. "The financial targets of the Tour de France were "slightly" surpassed."

And so it must be for the Santos Tour Down Under (TDU).

"The
proof is in the pudding ... if you look at the 2008 race versus 2009
and 2010, the numbers speak for themselves, they're staggering," said
TDU boss Mike Turtur when it was announced Armstrong would ride in
Adelaide.

"We're in a business here, I know we stage a bike race,
but just as importantly, we stage a tourism event which is designed to
do a couple of things - bring people to SA and also to increase economic
activity.

"When you're running a business ... you look at things
that work and are proven and deliver - certainly having Lance Armstrong
on the start line caters for all those considerations more than we
could ever have dreamt about.

Needless to say there is danger in
this. With his genuine retirement even closer the sport has a problem -
who or what will fill the void Armstrong leaves?

How secure are
those investments by sponsors if they have no personality on which to
anchor their involvement? Something they clearly factor into their
accounting.

In some ways the past decade may be a lost one, with
the sport coasting along on Armstrong's coat-tails in much the same way
Australia is enjoying a measure of economic security on the back of the
mining boom.

What has the sport really done to secure a stable economic future?

Recent
events have shown us there is no certainty for sponsors (or teams) in
the license system and some teams are having issues securing the backing
required.

Yes there is a developing cohesive global circuit but
we probably need a complimentary franchise team structure to make it
work. And without doubt we need a root and branch restructuring of the
governance of the sport.

At the moment there are more questions
than answers and we can only hope the smart guys in the room come up
with a few ideas and action them.

If not [without a sport defining personality like Armstrong] the next decade may be an uncertain one.