GreenEDGE Cycling Team Announced New Sponsor
Orica comes aboard as a new title sponsor, but they arrive with some baggage.
It's encouraging in these tight economic times when we see a cycling team gain a sponsor. I'm not talking about a "presented by" sponsor, but a real title sponsorship type of commitment. Australia's first ProTour team, GreenEDGE, today announced that they had a title sponsor that had signed on for three years - Orica. Starting at the 2012 Giro d'Italia, the squad's name will officially change to Orica-GreenEDGE.
After the announcement came the next question - what is an Orica? Was it some kind of whale? Quite the opposite. According to the team's press release, Orica is a global mining services operation. So why does a global mining company sponsor a cycling team? It's not like the average consumer is thinking, "You know what, I'm going to use Orica as my mining service company of choice from here on out. No more ACME Mining company for me!"
Thankfully the marketing people at Orica read our minds and released this quote from the company's Managing Director and CEO of Orica, Ian Smith.
"This sponsorship forms one of the strategic platforms for Orica to increase its brand presence in key global markets and we're convinced that the world-class performances of this team will help provide ongoing global exposure."
Okay, fair enough, but then a little digging discovered a little more about this company. It turns out that mining can get messy but also quite profitable.
According to Indymedia.org in 2011 Orica was about to have its tenth consecutive profit increase, with 60% of its earning produced from outside Australia.
Speaking of outside Australia, in December of 2010 Orica tried to export industrial waste to Denmark, but was blocked by the Danish government. Turns out Orica was shipping the toxic chemical hexachlorobenzene (HCB).
Greenpeace called the export of HCB to Denmark a major environmental crime as HCB cannot be exported from a country that does have the technology to deal with it. Greenpeace states that Australia has the technology to dispose of the waste and therefore it can't be exported. Greenpeace also claims that HCB poisoned the groundwater at their Botany Bay site, contaminating the water for thousands of Sydney residents. That's not good.
According to The Epoch Time, Orica is also an explosives and chemical company operating in 40 countries. Mining and explosives go hand in hand, so that's not a complete surprise. However, what is a surprise is that they haven't been too forthright with information regarding chemical spills from their own drilling operations. I know what you're thinking, "Wow! That's a surprise. A multinational company is not completely honest about a hazardous leak!" BP Oil much.
Orica made the news for a leak in New South Wales of which they are accused of not immediately notifying people. In addition to being slow off the mark for alerting people it's also that it was Hexavalent chromium (Chromium VI) - a known carcinogen - which plumed out to the surrounding area.
In case you're wondering what ingesting this chemical can do, according to New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, hexavalent chromium can cause lung, intestinal and stomach cancer.
And there's more. Orica is also accused of storing ammonium nitrate in a ship off the coast of New South Wales in what the Maritime Union of Australia called "dangerously sub-standard."
Yes, this is getting awkward - Orica is sponsoring an activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle. But looking at some of Orica's recent activities they don't seem to be too concerned with the health of people. But let's face it. Ever see a Grand Tour in person? There is a long line of promotion vehicles before the riders flash by. Behind them are numerous team cars, official's vehicles, motorcycles and press. Not exactly a small carbon footprint for a healthy event.
So what does Orica hope to gain from sponsoring a cycling team? For one an opportunity to have their company associated with world class athletes involved in a healthy activity. This might help their image as a company that isn't honest about toxic leaks or wants to ship their toxic mess to some other country.
Where do teams or events draw the line when it comes to sponsors? Is Orica-GreenEDGE a good match for cycling? Whatever your personal thoughts are about Orica, the company, needs to put aside. They have the right to try putting a healthier image in front of people.
Look at the upcoming Amgen Tour of California. Amgen is a huge pharmaceutical company that manufactures EPO - a drug that a pro cyclist would receive a two year ban if caught with. Yet, here is Amgen as the title sponsor of a bike race. EPO has a legitimate use in the medical field, notably in fighting cancer. Shouldn't they be allowed to promote that?
Of course I know companies like Amgen aren't doing it for altruistic reasons - they want to make boat loads of money and they sure as hell aren't handing out free EPO. Orica, Amgen, whomever, want their name associated with an activity that will put them in a good light. Sometimes it's painfully ironic like Orica and other times it's symbiotic like a bike company. It's up to us the fans of the sport to decide how offended we are about cheering for a team that has the title of a company we don't believe in across their chest.