Kerr buys Cycle League

One of the country's best known sports agents has bought the Toronto franchise in the National Cycle League.Elliott Kerr, president of The Landmark Group, says the opportunity to buy the franchise came his way after league negotiations with other Toronto interests...

One of the country’s best known sports agents has bought the Toronto franchise in the National Cycle League.

Elliott Kerr, president of The Landmark Group, says the opportunity to buy the franchise came his way after league negotiations with other Toronto interests fell through.

Called the Toronto Pride, the new franchise will compete in the Atlantic Conference of the 14-team league.

The National Cycle League started in Pasadena, Calif. in 1988 and is now based in New York.

Three six-man teams compete over one-kilometre street circuits, each race lasting about an hour. The 20-week season starts April 10 in Miami.

Toronto Pride’s first race is June 12 in Tulsa, Okla. against the Tulsa Cyclones and the San Francisco Shakers, another new franchise.

Home town debut

The Pride’s home town debut is July 10, when the team takes on Miami and Milan.

Kerr will not disclose how much the Toronto franchise cost him, although he says he paid for it in u.s. dollars.

In 1989, the Los Angeles Wings franchise cost its owner US$7,500. This year, the estimated going rate for a franchise is US$250,000.

Kerr says he paid somewhere between those two sums for the Toronto Pride.

Cycle racing, a hugely popular activity in much of western Europe and parts of South America, is a niche sport in North America, Kerr concedes, but goes on to say that has not stopped the National Cycle League from signing tv contracts and sponsorship deals with several high profile corporations.

He says League sponsors include Volkswagen, adidas, Motorola, Delta Airlines and Budweiser.

The bulk of the league’s 23 races will be shown on ESPN2, the u.s. sports cable network.

Kerr says the league’s wild card race and its world title showdown will be held in Monte Carlo.

The wild card race Aug. 20 is slated for cbs and the world title tilt scheduled for ESPN1 Aug. 21.

Steve Rayment, a spokesman for The Sports Network in Toronto, says it has just been decided tsn will broadcast an ncl highlights package at the end of this season to test audience reaction.

Kerr says he is seeking local support for the Toronto Pride, but because of league sponsorship agreements he is limited to pursuing certain categories.

Categories

He says he plans to talk to a sporting goods retail chain, a soft drink maker, a car company and life insurance firms, among others, as well as Scarborough Town Centre, a large shopping complex in an east Toronto suburb where the Pride’s hometown race will be staged.

He says The Pride has sponsorship packages from $2,000 to $50,000 available.

A spokeswoman for Canadian Tire, which sponsors cycle races in Quebec and Oshawa, Ont., says budget restraints mean the company has had to take a pass this year on the ncl.

Sharon McKay, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola in Toronto, says the soft drink maker is not involved with the ncl, adding some years ago Coke supported cycling in Quebec, but has since pulled out.

David Russell, owner of Sporting Life, a large sporting goods retailer in Toronto, says he only heard recently about the Toronto Pride after a meeting with the Landmark Group on another matter.

Russell, who added a bicycle outlet to his Sporting Life operation last year, says he believes it is great road racing is coming to Toronto, but adds it is too soon to say much beyond that.

Other companies in several categories contacted by Strategy, likely candidates for cycle racing sponsorship, had not returned phone calls by press-time.

Little overlap

Kerr says he is not worried about the Toronto Pride competing for the advertiser’s dollar since there is little overlap between cycling and other sports markets.

If there is any market cycling fans might resemble, it is skiing.

Kerr says research shows the cycling audience is a bit upmarket. The average age is 36; 84% are college (university) educated; 70% are homeowners; 45% own a home computer; and the average annual income is $60,000.

Kerr says he does not expect his franchise to draw large numbers of people immediately, but in time he says crowds of 5,000 to 10,000 are not out of the question.

There is no charge to watch the race.

To mark the Toronto Pride’s debut, Kerr says he is organizing a mass participation race around the Scarborough Town Centre circuit for The United Way.