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Nissan puts the pedal down in expanding backing of a pro cycling team

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Internationally, cycling is such a popular sport that tens of millions of fans turn out for live events in dozens of countries every year. At the pinnacle of professional performance, cycling is an incredibly demanding sport — the kind of intense, unforgiving competition that Nissan believes people will further embrace over time.

And Nissan believes that time is now.

Nissan North America is stepping up a previous involvement in the professional cycling circuit to become co-title sponsor of an international team of 30 professional riders. Now, the automaker’s name will be on every jersey and bike used by the RadioShack Nissan Trek. Nissan vehicles will support all team events, and will be regularly seen actively participating in support of the cyclists.

Brian Carolin, senior vice president, sales and marketing, for Nissan North America, has become very much a race fan himself, from both a marketing and personal perspective.

“The thing that has really excited us this year,” says Carolin, “is the coming together of a number of really top-class athletes on our team. That will increase the exposure for RadioShack Nissan Trek.”

Among them is American Chris Horner, who won the Tour of Californiaevent last year, the marquee U.S. cycling event. Horner is again a favorite in 2012. Two million spectators turned out for last year’s week long race from The San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles. “It’s a dramatic example,” says Carolin, “of the increasing popularity of the sport in America, and of why Nissan is involved.”

“The coverage that television is giving to the sport… we’re seeing viewing figures on TV increasing.” Further, said Carolin, it’s clear that cycling is becoming more popular as a way to keep fit, and as alternative practical transportation in an age of energy awareness. It is a good fit for a corporation that has consistently demonstrated its interest in environmental issues, along with health and fitness. Nissan has previously sponsored these themes in other sporting events such as the New York and Boston marathons.

Carolin believes RadioShack Nissan Trek will build on last year’s success in California and in other U.S. races including an increasingly important new race in Colorado, as well internationally. “Of course, the blue ribbon event globally is the Tour de France, and you know we have some of the best riders… you know it is truly a super team”, said Carolin.

Along with Horner, top team riders include The Schleck brothers (Andy and Frank) of Luxembourg, and Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara, team captain in the Spring Classics. “His nickname is Spartacus”, said Carolin, speaking more as a race fan than as a marketing executive, “I mean this guy is awesome.”

In addition to Nissan’s sponsorship and international marketing opportunities, local Nissan dealerships will participate in events in their immediate region. Meanwhile, the team itself is quite literally gearing up, training on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. RadioShack Nissan Trek is already off to a fast start, with an impressive performance at the season opening Tour Down Under in Australia.

Across a race season that stretches into next fall, team riders will sometimes be competing in events on different continents, simultaneously. Nissan will be supporting them — and very visible — at every stage along the way.

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