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Wonderful Pistachios Cracks the Mold of the Traditional Cycling Team
With several of cycling’s top teams folding or being forced to share sponsors, the traditional definition of success in the sport is changing. Teams are breaking out of the conventional limitations of what a cycling team’s role is in supporting their sponsors and figuring out how to further justify the corporate investment.

One of those teams is the Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling Team (UCI Continental) based out of Los Angeles, California. Realizing the limitations of what a Continental team can do in terms of achieving media exposure for it’s sponsors, team owner Josh Horowitz is exploiting all aspects of what his team has to offer.

“Wonderful Pistachios airs a commercial during the World Series and reaches 20 million viewers. They are not necessarily going to be impressed by the exposure we get on the NRC or even on the UCI circuit”, says Horowitz. “I can’t go to them and say, Hey, you got your money’s worth because we won an NRC race this weekend in front of 10,000 spectators. They are going to ask about the TV coverage, the local news coverage, the international media exposure. At the end of the day, they want to know exactly how many people we reached and I want that number to be as big as possible.”

To that end, the team chooses races not based on prestige or history but based on sheer numbers. Each races is analyzed in terms of spectators and how many sample bags of pistachios the team will be able to distribute.

“We determined a certain price per impression at the beginning of the season and if the number doesn’t match up in terms of the cost to get to the race vs. the number of expected attendees and media coverage, then we skip the race”, says Horowitz. “It’s that simple.”

One of the ways the team is implementing this policy is by searching out international UCI race invitations. Horowitz explains, “We can go to China and do a week long stage race for less than the cost of doing a single day criterium in the United States.”

While the typical NRC entry fee may be as much as $65 per rider, UCI races have no entry fee, cover travel expenses and meals and often put the racers up in nice hotels.

“Although our main focus is the NCC and other criterium series such as USA Crits, Europe and Asia are two of Wonderful’s biggest markets so we will be looking for invites during any lulls in the U.S. season”, says Horowitz.

The Extra Mile
While most teams focus all their efforts solely on racing, the Wonderful Pistachios team is exploiting all the resources they have at their disposal. At the team’s recent training camp in Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California, Paramount Farms employees were invited to attend and be part of the team for the weekend. The corporate attendees included Mark Masten, VP of Marketing, Horacio Del Valle, head of Wonderful Pistachios’ Mexican operations as well as the company’s CFO and other executives. Paramount Farms consists of Wonderful Pistachios, Pom Wonderful, Fiji Water and Justin Wines.

“I wanted to get the entire Paramount Farms family involved with the team and not just their marketing departments”, says Horowitz. “It occurred to me as I walked through their offices that these are health minded people who could benefit from the knowledge, experience and drive of our pro riders.”

In addition to epic rides through the vineyards of the Central Valley, the campers were invited to team meals, a sports psychology workshop and other corporate team building exercises.

“Some large corporations spend millions of dollars on Corporate Wellness programs designed to increase productivity, reduce sick days and cut down on health insurance costs. I figured that if we can fulfill some of these functions then that is one more way to help the company justify the cost of the team. Adding this to the millions of impressions that the team achieves throughout the season, gives us a fighting chance at a renewal of the sponsorship for 2013 and beyond.”

The corporate portion of the camp ended with a bash at the Paramount Farms owned Justin Winery, the premier winery of the region. The evening included a 6 course meal, with each course paired to the appropriate Justin wine and a private tasting of their renowned ISOCELES wine in the ISOSCELES Library located deep in their barrel caves built into the Paso Robles hillside.

“It meant a lot to the team to be able to meet and ride with the executives who are essentially signing their pay checks. I think that it also helps the employees understand better what they have in this team and how to fully utilize our resources.”

Camp wrapped on Wednesday and the riders immediately headed up to the Merco Cycling Classic. Other team races in the early season include Redlands and the Vuelta a Mexico. The team has also accepted invitations to the Tour de Beauce in Canada and the Wenjing Grand Prix in China.

This week the team added 3 riders to their initial 9 rider roster, Yusuke Higuma (Japan), Aurelien Passeron (France) and Kirk Carlsen (USA).

• Thanks to for photos.


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