Profit, Publicity, Portfolio.
For the week that’s in it, I was just reading “The Yellow Jersey” by Peter Cossins (Cossins, 2019). The chapter on sponsorship “The colour of Money” drew parallels for me with perceptions of ‘earnings’ for independent creatives. The risks and rewards. This year in the Tour de France there are 22 teams, 176 riders, all vying to win, but also many sponsors vying for eye time. There are many ways to achieve that. It’s not just the winner on the podium on the final day. It’s not just the winner every day. There are many sub classifications in the daily and overall racing - King of the Mountains, Best sprinter, Best Young Rider, etc. But it’s not just about them either.
There are many teams and riders who will not be winners and know that they won’t. The earning for them is to get as much air time as possible for their sponsors. For example, there will usually be a breakaway - a group of riders that will race ahead of the bunch. Almost inevitably, they are caught before the end of the day’s racing and overtaken. They often ‘win’ nothing. But even though the main contenders - the stars of cycling - are back in the peloton, for up to four hours the cameras are largely on the breakaway riders. Four hours with twenty five million viewers on the sponsors’ branding. That’s their job done. As a sponsor, you take your chances. A team could perform badly, a rider could crash to of the race (for whatever reason), there might be only one day in the sun for your brand, or none at all. It struck me how clever the sponsorship of Le Maillot Jaune itself was - currently Le Crédit Lyonnais (LCL) - like death and taxes, it is an assured thing. The jersey may change wearers often during a Tour, but it will always be there and always be featured on all media coverage. It’s above the riders and the teams. The risk and reward balance is optimal. If you’re in it only to make money, that’s all you’ll make.
For independent creatives, especially those starting out, what you earn from your work isn’t just about the money. Sometimes it’s work that may not see the light of day but will bring in the rent. Sometimes it’s the prestige of a certain project and the ability to turn that into publicity. Sometimes it’s the opportunity to produce work you are really proud of - portfolio material. Mostly its balance - it’s not absolute - and a healthy workload is a mix of all three - Profit, Publicity and Portfolio.
Occasionally you will create a legend.
Reference: Cossins, P., 2019. The Yellow Jersey. 1st ed. London: Vintage. Photo: The legend Alberto Contador in the 2017 Tour de France during the Marseille time trial.