Nivea was the first sponsor of professional cycling that wasn't a cycling related company.
The early 1950's was a time of reconstruction in Italy after the destruction of World War II. The conflict created an era of new industrial growth. Approximately four million bicycles were on the roads of Italy, being used mainly as primary transportation. There were only about three hundred and forty thousand cars in use throughout the country.
Bicycle racing was the most popular sport in Italy during the post war era. Fans flocked to see the races in person, or followed the racing by radio and newspaper coverage.
In the mid to late 1950s, bicycles as transportation was giving way to motorized vehicles. As millions of people poured into the northern region of the country in pursuit of factory jobs, they began to earn enough money to afford cars, scooters or motorcycles. Workers no longer relied on bicycles for transportation.
Professional bicycle racing teams had always been funded by companies that manufactured bicycles. The moneys to support the teams diminished with the reduction in sales and production of bicycles. Racers saw their income compromised when bicycle racing was still hugely popular as a sport.
Fiorenzo Magni was not only a champion cyclist he was obviously a great salesman. At the end of the 1954 racing season, he convinced Nivea to co-sponsor a professional bicycle racing team. The other team sponsor was Swiss bike manufacturer Fuchs.
Nivea was a women's face cream maker at the time. This non-cycling related sponsorship was the precedent for many other companies to offer sponsorship to cycling teams and events as a means of advertising. This saved professional cycling.
Click here to learn more about Nivea.
Click here for more on Fiorenzo Magni.