As a corporate sponsorships go, it seems to get a lot of people excited.
Accounting giant Ernst & Young is bringing its corporate cycling day to Perth for the first time, along with guest of honour and pacesetter Cadel Evans.
Some 80 E&Y clients and staff in WA will share an 80km road ride with last year's Tour de France winner in the city next month, expanding a corporate tie-up the firm believes has been one of its best investments.
Annette Kimmitt, the managing partner of E&Y's Melbourne office, which hooked up with Evans two years ago, says the client response to the cycling days has been unparalleled since the launch in 2010.
She recalls her office had been looking for a new client program "to create a very unique experience . . . that was about teaming and collaboration in a way that reflected how we like to work with our clients". The marketing team came up with cycling, tapping the growing popularity of the sport - particularly in the corporate community - and enlisted Evans.
"We quickly realised we had somebody who embodied the values and leadership attributes to which we aspire," Ms Kimmitt says.
The day after Evans led the inaugural race from Melbourne, she was overwhelmed by positive emails, handwritten cards and voice messages from clients who participated. "It was like nothing I had ever experienced in any sort of program we had run for clients."
The partnership proved timely. Interest in Evans from corporate sponsors and the public exploded after his Tour de France victory and has barely let up since.
E&Y locked him into a longer, expanded deal after last year's Tour, before rolling the cycling days into Sydney and Brisbane.
The head of its Perth office, Mike Anghie, says Evans' association allows the firm to offer an experience that "people can't buy" in an environment where firms are seeking innovative ways of building client relationships.
"It's nice to have people talking about something we've done a year later," says Mr Anghie who, like the other participants, is in training for the Perth ride.
The 80 riders are split by fitness and cycling experience into three groups with staggered starts.
The Evans partnership has morphed into a much broader tie-up, which includes him mentoring E&Y staff and working with the Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
"He's working with us and we are working to help him as well," Ms Kimmitt says. "So, it is quite a genuine partnership now, it's unlike any normal partnership."
And while Evans was signed to a new three-year deal last year, the firm sees the relationship lasting a lot longer. "We intend for it to go on for many more years irrespective of how long he stays on the bike," Ms Kimmitt says.
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