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USPS Could Mark Cycling "Return To Sender"

Advertising Age newspaper reports in its March 22 that the U.S. Postal Service won't renew its lead sponsorship of the U.S. Pro Cycling Team and five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong's agent, Bill Stapleton, told the weekly he hopes to have a replacement signed before the Tour de France begins July 3.

The USPS is "obviously still our first choice, but we have been in a full-scale sales cycle for the title sponsorship based on the possibility that they might not renew," Stapleton, founder and CEO of Capital Sports & Entertainment, said. He did not identify those companies with which he has been talking. He did say the USPS could remain aboard as a sponsor in a lesser capacity.

The Postal Service will decide in the next month whether to continue its lead sponsorship. While it has been under pressure to cut back or eliminate its sponsorships, the agency spent less last year on "measured advertising," making the cycling sponsorship a bigger part of its marketing mix.

The cycling sponsorship costs the USPS an estimated $8-9 million a year. It has been the lead sponsor since 1996.

Although it hasn't been running ads featuring Armstrong late, Ad Age reports a new commercial has been shot to run this year.

Co-sponsors include Coca-Cola, Visa USA, Yahoo! and Subaru.

"From a PR point of view, it was good for the post office," said Nova Lanktree of Lanktree Sports. "The parallels between racing and meeting deadlines and reaching goals is a very good comparison with an entity like the post office.

"What they paid Lance has nothing to do with the cost of a stamp rising," she added.

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