The Tour de France is going on right now. If you're like me, you just assumed it was canceled once Lance Armstrong retired.
Cycling (as a spectator sport) isn't huge in America. Lots of people own bikes and like to ride them, but not many folks plop down in front a TV to watch cycling or stick with Sportscenter until the biking segment.
Of course, this wasn't the case when Lance Armstrong was dominating. This American rider got Americans interested. There were weekly recaps on Sunday afternoons, as well as consistent bits on ESPN.
But now, most Americans couldn't name anyone in the top 50 currently zipping down the hillsides in France. This makes you realize how valuable Lance Armstrong was (and still is).
Lance wasn't valuable just because he would stand on the podium with his sponsor's logo across his chest. He was valuable because he could increase the number of eyeballs that would look at the logo as he stood on top of the podium.
The next American superstar bike rider will be able to do the same thing. It's not important that you sponsor this year's winner. Sure, this year's winner will be seen. What you need to do is sponsor the next American winner because that person will be able to increase the size of the audience, in addition to being seen for finishing on top.
If you can make people do something they don't normally do, you'll be able to command your own price.