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Portland company sponsors top cycling team: Will debut at Tour de France

Posted by on June 16th, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Portland-based Columbia Sportswear has announced that they have taken over sponsorship of Team High Road (formerly T-Mobile) and new jerseys with “Team Columbia” will debut at the start line of the Tour de France.

This would be first time a Portland company was a title sponsor of such a high-profile racing team. Team High Road is currently the ninth-ranked cycling team in the world and is has more wins in 2008 than any other team in pro cycling. The team also includes U.S. star George Hincapie.

In a press release (download below) sent out today, president and CEO of Columbia Tim Boyle said,

“By sponsoring one of the top men’s and women’s cycling teams in the world, we leverage the international popularity and broad media reach of the cycling sport among enthusiast and recreational audiences, promote Columbia’s outdoor brand leadership in Europe and the U.S…”

The sponsorship is a three-year deal running through 2010 (download press release here — 160K, PDF).

Columbia is not the first Portland company to have its name associated with the Tour de France. Southwest Portland-based Castelli USA was the official clothing supplier to the Saunier Duval-Prodir team last year. Chris King Precision Components, who makes their products in Northwest Portland is a regular in the pro peleton and their headsets were on board many of Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France winning bikes.

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  • Zaphod June 16, 2008 at 12:26 pm


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  • Spencer June 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    This is Awesome!!!

    Finally a home town team to root for.

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  • Ed June 16, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    This is great news for Bike Portland Oregon, what a cool thing. Wonder where the training rides will be.

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  • Kyle June 16, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    You forgot Nike. They were the clothing sponsor for US Postal and Team Discovery Channel and covered Lance\’s bony ass in the TdF.

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  • Evan June 16, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    I\’m disappointed that last month they let go 600 people and now have the ability/money to sponsor a cycling team. It\’s a shame that they felt that advertising took precedence over providing people with a wage to feed themselves and their families.

    Somehow I think they could have done both.

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  • jeff June 16, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    \”Wonder where the training rides will be.\”

    Most likely, the team will remain headquartered in San Luis Obispo, so you probably won\’t see them around except for promo shots and stuff.

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  • bahueh June 16, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    most of these guys live all over the country (world) and have personal trainers..they are very seldomly all in one place. Hincapie lives in S. Carolina for instance…

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  • slort June 16, 2008 at 2:27 pm


    Get ready for at least another year or two of the Hincapie heartbreak

    Great for PDX though!

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  • roner June 16, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I thought Columbia was a Beaverton company.

    Either way I think it\’s exciting and I\’m glad to see them sponsor a team. I wonder if they will make cycling clothes in the future.

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  • Nick June 16, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Oh so sorry that Beaverton is not part of Portland…. a$$hole.

    This is a big deal. Jan Ulrich\’s team. Also there is a decent documentary \”Hell on Wheels\” (viewable on Netflix) that follows this team in the 2004 Tour.

    Their sponsors (Adidas and T-mobile) split earlier this year after the doping scandal. Hopefully they can get a fresh start and not tarnish our local… non-portland company.


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  • ggw June 16, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I\’m also thinking that the team will remain headquartered in San Luis Obispo. All of their preseason training will take place there but I\’m sure they\’ll take in Portland for some promotional stuff. Plus our Feb weather is better suited for the northern Spring Classics in Belgium and northern France. Glad to have some more NW presence in the biggest and baddest pelotons in the world.

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  • roner June 16, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Sorry to upset you so much Nick!

    The reason I mentioned it is because Columbia left Portland for very specific reasons. The city has been courting them every since to no avail.

    Is a company that left Portland because of taxes, land issues and politics still a Portland company? Seems like they want the Portland lifestyle and name but don\’t want to play by Portland rules.

    To me, this subject bring up interesting dynamics of the Portland business world and the brand name \”Portland\”

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  • chris June 16, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    I agree with you roner. columbia has forsaken portland but it\’s cool that they put a team together. George Hincapie should really shine this year.

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  • Anonymous June 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Portland, it\’s not just about commuters anymore.

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  • E June 16, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Uh… Evan, I am very much for the working person, but it seems like you can\’t pay people without money, money comes from sales, sales increase with advertising. I wasn\’t a business major, but I think that\’s how it works. Now, I\’m not defending their decision to lay off all those people because I don\’t know the story there. I just had to point out that if a business is struggling, making advertising a priority seems like a good decision.

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  • kg June 17, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Columbia is in unincorporated Washington County. No business wants to lay off employees but sometimes it is the only way to save even more jobs.

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  • Pete June 17, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Nick(#10): Thanks for pointing out \”Hell on Wheels\”. There\’s also a DVD in the WA County library system called \”The Hard Road\” that covers the 2001 NetZero team.

    My old roommate went from Nike to Columbia and liked working for them a little better, but still found Nike a more progressive company (in terms of spending for IT infrastructure, for instance). Maybe Columbia is struggling with brand identity in an increasingly crowded \”outdoor\” market? Back when I had discounts at both I found Columbia made quality products and really wished they had cycling clothes; they could probably find a good niche for winter/wet weather cyclists.

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  • Evan June 17, 2008 at 9:48 am

    These teams run at $10M to $40M in expenses. And as a major sponsor you are ponying up the dollars for right to have your name on a jersey.

    It just irks me to listen to the noise here about how the oil companies are gouging us by making more money than ever, but when a sporting goods company slashes 600 jobs to become MORE profitable, no one gives a damn. Columbia wasn\’t losing money they just wanted to make MORE money so they took the easy way out, by putting 600 people on the unemployment line.

    Sorry but I can\’t get excited about sponsoring a cycling team when this is how they do business.

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  • wsbob June 17, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Evan, do you know anything more in particular about why Columbia slashed those 600 jobs rather than say, restructure company operations to retrain and use those employees in other areas that would have maximized company profits?

    I\’d have to say that I\’m largely uninformed about business and how it works, so I\’m always open to insight about how and why businesses do what they do. Years ago, I actually met Tim Boyle. We didn\’t talk business, but he seemed like a decent guy, and definitely an Oregonian. Columbia is a publicly traded stock company, but doesn\’t Tim Boyle and his mom still head this company up?

    Unless there\’s something fairly solid to prove it, I\’m not yet convinced Columbia dumped those 600 jobs just to make more profit. Doing it to stay in the black sounds more likely. I did a quick check, found some short stories about the jobs. Here\’s one:

    \” AP
    Columbia Sportswear trims jobs in Ore.
    Tuesday May 20, 3:15 pm ET
    Columbia Sportswear trims undisclosed number of jobs in Oregon

    BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) — Columbia Sportswear Co. says it has cut an undisclosed number of jobs at its Beaverton headquarters.

    Columbia spokesman John Fread says the reductions came through layoffs and voluntary buyouts. The company wouldn\’t say how many people were affected but classified the number of layoffs as \”small\”.

    The outdoor clothing company says it made the cuts because of increased investment in marketing to help the company grow globally and because of concerns about a continued weak domestic economy.

    Columbia said last month that its sales and earnings for the rest of the year would be lower than expected.\”

    Lingering questions about the company\’s business practices aside, Columbia Sportswear sponsoring this team could be a great thing for Oregon. Among other things, I\’m curious about whether the company can somehow be an influence in leading competitive cycling away from the temptation and practice of using illegal performance enhancements, aka doping.

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  • chris June 17, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Evan, have a cookie. We feel for anyone who loses a job but nobody has a lifetime employment guarantee.

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  • Nick June 17, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Thanks for the reply roner. I hearby remove your \”A$$hole\” lable.

    I miss-inturpreted your poke. My bad.


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  • Pete June 17, 2008 at 11:40 am

    There\’s an article in the Oregonian\’s business section today about the sponsorship, which Columbia views as an opportunity to reclaim declining European market share. With the US$ value so low and America reportedly on a recession/inflation verge companies have to focus on EMEA and Asia-Pacific exports, so this seems a sensible survival tactic (bike racing in Europe is way more popular than in the US anyway). (Nike, for instance, reported record earnings in first quarter primarily due to phenomenal growth in Chinese retail).

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  • Jean Reinhardt June 17, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Mama Gert in lycra–yeesh!

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  • evan June 17, 2008 at 6:47 pm


    I didn\’t see anything in the article you posted or any that I\’ve read that says they were losing money.

    They did it to make more money. So I really don\’t want top hear anymore whining about the oil companies, since they have the same rights to maximize profits as Columbia does.

    Sorry you all feel that sponsoring a cycling team is more important than sponsoring 600 employees and their families.

    I guess you have to look at the bright side, they won\’t be driving to work.

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  • Thom June 17, 2008 at 9:43 pm


    Anytime layoffs happen, it\’s a big suckeroo. A number of the jobs lost were buyouts (read: a very cushy landing), while others were layoffs. All were apparently in their headquarters in the Northwest corner of Oregon.

    Also, 600 employees would be 15% of their 4000-person labor force globally, and 35% of their 1700 U.S. headcount. That\’s a HUGE percentage, while they categorized the job cuts as \”small.\”

    I believe as a publicly traded company, investors would clamor for a hard number and more information: where\’d you get 600 jobs? Are you quite sure it\’s correct? No news source I\’ve seen cites that number, but maybe you\’ve got some insight we don\’t.

    Also, who knows why they cut those jobs? Maybe that division was underperforming. Maybe they tried to sell that division of the company for the past year or two, but no one wanted it. Hell, I dunno. Maybe they did wake up one morning with the idea that trading a few employees for a tour de France team would be a deal they could live with.

    But finally, I actually agree with you. It sucks when companies lay people off, especially big companies because it feels so faceless until its your neighbor shopping his resume around. Gawd, I cannot imagine losing my job with the uncertainty in the economy right now, but this I do know: Short-sighted profitability will tear this country apart. So what if Columbia they went into the red for a year? Keep the people on and re-focus their efforts somehow. For example, white-collar workers who design unprofitable rock-climbing apparel can\’t switch gears to design some other technical apparel?

    Anyway, based on what I\’ve read, I\’m not ready to totally slag on Columbia. Evan\’s got more vitriol than facts, and that\’s not enough tonight.

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  • wsbob June 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    \”Sorry you all feel that sponsoring a cycling team is more important than sponsoring 600 employees and their families.\” evan

    Please don\’t read into my words, meaning that doesn\’t exist. I made no such statement about the importance of team sponsorship over people gainfully employed, and that does not represent my feelings.

    I also read the article Pete mentions in comment #22. Another statement the writer made was that Columbia explained it\’s actions by saying they were aimed to achieve long term growth in exchange for short term profits. I\’m not sure I take exactly to how they explain their actions, but I don\’t know for a fact that it\’s misleading or deceptive. No doubt, some people reading here have a fairly good grasp of how big business works, far better than me at least.

    I think people are generally aware of how corporations spin the nature of business decisions having complicated consequences. There\’s no question that some corporations and their executives have been outright bad. I\’m inclined to believe there are many that aren\’t, and just maybe Columbia is one of them.

    Still, Columbia, like other big corporations, is subject to the vagaries of the economy and world supply and demand. I sure don\’t know if Columbia did the right thing, but it probably had to do something.

    If I\’ve read the news items correctly, though Columbia hadn\’t yet reached the point where it was losing money, it\’s growth had declined, raising concerns about the future might hold. Declining growth represents a trend that any company shouldn\’t want to continue, for obvious reasons. Stable activity is o.k., but not declining.

    If the number of employees let off was 600, and you think the Columbia would have been better advised to keep them on, what\’s your suggestion to obtain the goals of both Columbia and the employees until the next growth upswing? Keep all of them on staff at minimum wage pay?

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  • Pete June 18, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I think an important point to keep in mind is that the sponsorship and the layoffs are unrelated. Their decision to sponsor this team came after the execution of the layoffs, and more likely by two completely different groups of people, probably not even up to Tim Boyle\’s level. I don\’t know enough about Columbia to say, but it\’s unlikely that people got together and said \”hey, we\’ve got some money now from laying those people off, so let\’s sponsor a bicycle racing team.\” Businesses this big and fast-moving rarely coordinate activities this precisely (hence the growth of \’business intelligence\’ in the IT world).

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  • wsbob June 18, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Another one of the news items I ran across…in some kind of business journal, plainly stated that Columbia\’s sponsoring the team for marketing reasons…because TDF riders are like moving billboards. It also said that Columbia is well known in Europe, but not a household name. The team sponsorship could change that. I believe it also said that Columbia is spending more on marketing this year than it ever has before.

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