Sponsorships down for Tour of Missouri bike race

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The state of Missouri wasn't the only sponsor of the Tour of Missouri bicycle race to take a hard look at its commitment to this year's race.

Budget documents released by Tour of Missouri Inc., the not-for-profit corporation that organizes the cross-state race, show that Gold sponsorships -- donors giving $100,000 or more -- are almost 30 percent less than expected earlier this year. When the largest single Gold sponsor -- the Missouri Development Finance Board, a state agency giving $500,000 -- is excluded, anticipated Gold sponsorship revenue is less than half the amount anticipated earlier this year.

The amounts being given for other sponsorship levels -- Silver sponsors at $50,000, Bronze sponsors at $25,000 and Tour Partners at lesser amounts -- are all lower than anticipated except in the cheapest category.

Tour budgets were released this week when Gov. Jay Nixon announced he would allow $1.5 million in state tax money allocated for tourism development to be spent on the race. The public money from the Missouri Development Finance Board isn't tax money but fees generated by its programs.

Tour of Missouri executive director Jerry Dowell, deputy to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, said the budget is a "working document" undergoing constant revision. But some big sponsors are either declining to support this year's race or reducing their commitment, he said. Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agribusiness, did not renew its Gold sponsorship and Emerson, the St. Louis-based technology company, became a Silver rather than Gold sponsor, Dowell said.

This week, Tour of Missouri Inc. released two budgets that had been prepared for this year's race. One document, which Dowell called a projection made earlier in the year, anticipated Gold sponsors would provide $1.21 million. The current projection, based on actual commitments, is $850,000. In the final budget for the 2008 race, Gold sponsors provided $1.05 million.

The current budgeted revenue for the 2009 race is $3.05 million, down from $3.78 million from the earlier version and $280,000 less than the total revenue for the 2008 race.

The tour begins Sept. 7 in St. Louis. On Sept. 8, the cyclists will race from Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau. Specific routes will be announced this week, Dowell said.

To make up shortfalls in cash, tour organizers have been working hard to obtain commitments of goods and services. Examples of deals cut for sponsorship advertising include lower excess baggage fares from American Airlines -- a help to bicycle teams that ship equipment with their team members -- and jerseys and other clothing provided by Columbia Sportswear. Missouri Beef is providing meat for hospitality rooms, and the opening gala, which was held in a Kansas City hotel last year, will be held at the St. Louis City Museum with appetizers instead of a sit-down dinner, Dowell said.

"We are just scrubbing different line items to see how can we not expend money on that and get a sponsorship deal," Dowell said.

The publicity about the uncertainty of state funding has actually helped deliver sponsors, Dowell said. "I think it may have excited several people, and I don't think it hurt fundraising at all."

Several potential sponsors have contacted race organizers in recent days to express interest in helping, he said. More than a dozen deals are being negotiated, he said.

When the final budget figures are in, Dowell said, the costs and revenue for the 2009 race should be similar to the $3.2 million spent in 2008. Making future Tours totally supported by private sponsorships is a goal, but not a priority right now with the race eight weeks away, Dowell said.

"I am concentrating right now on making sure that we come in in the black and we put this thing on budget, on schedule and on time," Dowell said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Jefferson City, MO

Cape Girardeau, MO

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