Alpecin of Germany is selling more of its follicle-stimulating shampoo than ever before, including in Asia. CEO Eduard Doerrenberg puts this down partly to his “brave” decision to sponsor an international cycling team, Team Giant-Alpecin.
Doerrenberg is the great grandson of Dr Wolff, the co-founder of the medicinal shampoo brand. The 111-year-old family-run shampoo manufacturer had sales of €243m in 2014, an increase of 18 percent year on year. The brand is growing far faster than mainstream cosmetics brands. Doerrenberg said sponsoring a cycling team was a “perfect fit” for Alpecin, and that partnering with Giant of Taiwan, and employing Ji Cheng, the first Chinese rider to complete the Tour de France, was a key reason why sales of the shampoo in Asia are so strong.
Alpecin, which makes a caffeine-enriched anti-hairloss shampoo, has been a sponsor of the cycling scene in Germany for 60 years but stepped up its spend in 2015 by becoming co-sponsor of Team Giant-Alpecin.
Doerrenberg told Marketing magazine of Australia that spending all of its sponsorship budget on an international cycling team was a “strategic move”. He stressed: “We’re doing it for business, not for pleasure.”
The appeal of cycling is the big bang for every sponsorship buck. “Cycling is a global sport,” said Doerrenberg.
“We were convinced that cycling, as many people say, is the new golf. You can see a clear global trend, specifically in developed countries, where people between 25 and 45 prefer to cycle instead of playing golf. That’s mainly driven by the idea that it’s much better for your fitness to cycle than to play golf. Golf takes longer but I think the whole fitness idea, the whole idea of health and being self-responsible fits perfectly with our encouraging men to take Alpecin early enough not to lose their hair or to lose much less than they would otherwise.”
Doerrenberg recognises that getting deep into sponsorship of a cycling team was risky because of cycling’s history of doping controversies, but that was also another reason to start: it was relatively cheap compared to other sports (many of which are now going through their own doping scandals).
“A big company wouldn’t have done it because the compliance officer would have said ‘no way’,” said Doerrenberg.
“It’s a really great sport, and it’s coming back. We’re fully against doping in sports [but] we don’t mind doping your hair.
In a company statement announcing the tie-up with Team Giant-Alpecin, Doerrenberg said:
"Alpecin has been involved in cycling for more than half a century. For us, we have come full circle with this important step. Particularly for Alpecin, unique opportunities are opened up to activate new international markets, and we can do this in cooperation with Giant, the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world.”
Team Giant-Alpecin was founded in 2008 as Skil-Shimano, with Giant becoming the bike sponsor in 2014.
Last month six Giant-Alpecin riders were hospitalised while training in southern Spain after being struck by a car driven by a British woman.