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Voice of Visma, Ep 05: Our Team Visma | Lease a Bike sponsorship with Anne-Grethe Thomle Karlsen

It’s one thing to sponsor the world’s best cycling team; it’s a whole other thing to provide software and expertise that helps them do what they do best. Learn how we help Team Visma | Lease a Bike both on and off the bikes and why we’re so proud to be the first title sponsor.

On the Voice of Visma podcast, we sit down with leaders and colleagues from around Visma to hear their stories, learn from their expertise, and share the best lessons they’ve learned throughout their careers. These are the stories that shape us… and the reason Visma is unlike anywhere else. New episodes are released Wednesdays on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and YouTube.

The text in this article is from Episode 05 and has been edited for length and clarity.

Welcome, Anne-Grethe! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Yes, I can start with telling a little bit about my Visma story. I came into Visma many, many years ago through one of the first and biggest acquisitions. When I came into Visma, I was responsible for the in-house advertising agency for many years. And later on, I got new positions within project management and brand management. Then, when we entered into the first sports sponsorship, I got the responsibility for that as well. And now I’m in this position. 

“That’s what I like with Visma – the possibility to grow, to learn new things, and always get new challenges. So, that’s why I’m still here after all these years.” 

And you live here in Oslo? 

I live just outside Oslo. So in my spare time, I like to be very active. During wintertime, you will probably find me cross-country skiing whenever or wherever it’s possible – from the beginning of the season to long, long out. And during summertime, I’m mostly at the seaside doing different kinds of activities. I love watching cycling, but I still haven’t started to do much cycling myself. That’s one of my personal goals for the longer term. And now I said it, so now I have to do it!

We recently became the first title sponsor of the team. How did that happen?

First of all, because it’s been such a great success with the brand awareness and everything during these years. And when we entered the sponsorship back in 2019, it was a part of our strategy of increasing our footprint in Europe, in both new markets but also existing markets, with building brand awareness. And, with all the great results this team has managed to achieve over the years – especially last season with winning all the three Grand Classics, meaning the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and La Vuelta, and also winning the Tour de France for a second time in a row. And all that brand exposure gives us great value. 

We share a lot of the same values as the team: teamwork, innovation, and the encouragement of being active. By continuing the sponsorship and stepping up as the first title sponsor, we will continue to gain brand value and also the internal pride and activation possibilities within the sponsorship. So, we’re really excited and looking forward to the coming years. 

In your opinion, what you do you think is the biggest value of our Team Visma | Lease a Bike sponsorship? 

As I mentioned, of course, the brand value and the brand awareness is very important for us. And with all those millions of people watching, both on TV and in the media, a lot of people are exposed to the jerseys and images, even if they’re not into cycling. So, of course, that’s very important for us. We measure the brand exposure.

“During the Tour de France last year, we could see that some of our websites had an increase of visitors of more than 20x compared to the previous month. So we can see the differences.” 

And also our blog articles – because we write blog articles about Team Visma | Lease a Bike, Visma, and business, and things we have in common – we also see that those blog articles have an increase in reading time during big events, as well.

Netflix: Unchained documentary

The Netflix series released last year called Tour de France: Unchained is a documentary series about cycling. It’s based on the same concept as the Formula 1 series, Drive to Survive. And when that was launched last year in June, we also could see a peak in our visitors on our websites. So now, with Season 2 coming in June, we will also look forward to seeing the results of that. 

What’s really great about the Netflix series, as well, is that they are showing cycling both for the ones really interested in cycling and those who know the sport well, but also for the new ones that don’t know much about cycling. So, they managed to make a good series explaining cycling and all the different aspects that people who aren’t into cycling don’t know about.

Amazon: All-In Team Jumbo-Visma documentary

In addition to the Netflix series, there is another series on Amazon called All In Team Jumbo-Visma. It’s all about the team from last season. That’s also very interesting because I didn’t know much about cycling before we entered into this sponsorship either. Of course, I have a husband who is very interested in cycling, so I’ve learned something from him. But when you start to really look into cycling – how they work as a team, how they set goals, and how they all have different roles, and how they collaborate – it’s really interesting to get that insight and understand how it’s not just about the one that wins; it’s a team effort. 

Internal pride and employer branding

Sponsoring one of the world’s best cycling teams and seeing the Visma logo on the chest of the top riders in the world is a huge inspiration for many of our employees. And since we are in more than 30 countries with more than 15,000 employees, it’s also important for us to have something in common that we can all connect with.

One example is, for instance, in Denmark – of course, cycling is big in Denmark. But, at the same time, they’re very good at organising activities and events for all their employees. So, the employees get to know each other through other activities, so they get to know each other across business units. That gives valuable insights and also business opportunities for Visma. 

And I know that we actually help the team, as well. In what ways do we do that?

Well, the cycling team is also a business. So they also need business-critical software like every other business. We provide them with our software for accounting and payroll processes, data analysis, HR operations, and digital signatures. We are helping with a lot of our business software. 

“What we are really proud of is how we are able to help the team perform even better on the bikes, because it’s all about being on the cycling team.” 

With the FoodCoach app and our AI model for nutrition prediction, we can make a significant impact. Imagine that during a stage, you burn about 6,000 to maybe 8,000 calories per day. And then three weeks in a row during a Grand Tour, burning up to 8,000 calories daily is an enormous amount. It’s very important for the team to have enough nutrition to perform well. 

Previously, the team predicted the nutrition manually, mostly based on experience and a bit of guessing. They had an accuracy of 50%. But now with our AI model, the rider gets in the FoodCoach app what they need to intake within a few seconds. The accuracy has increased to more than 82% based on our AI model. 

It’s great to see our competence helping the team perform very well. Especially during long races, they remain fit at the end.

Anything else in the works for us to better help the team with our software?

I can’t say much about it, but we are working on a new exciting project. What I can say is that we are experts in developing software and presenting data in the best way for our customers so they can make their best decisions. Yeah. So, with that little teaser, I can say that, in not too much time, we will be able to tell you more about how we are now helping the team perform even better. 

How do we help the countries where cycling is not that big to get knowledge about this sponsorship? 

As you say, some of our countries are typical cycling countries. But cycling is also a typical way of exercising. The team has a lot of insights and knowledge about topics common to both them and Visma, like team goals, diversity, and working towards goals. They help with inspirational talks for our internal or external events. 

In Finland, for example – not a typical cycling country – they have inspirational talks for all their employees that they can join online or physically. They will also have an activity in the summer where they encourage their employees to cycle and register how much they’ve ridden. As part of that, they will have an inspirational talk from Team Visma | Lease a Bike. 

This way, we’re able to connect ordinary activities with inspirational talks from the team.

Final question: What does “Champions of business software” mean to you?

Well, our goal is to help our customers and make their work life better and more efficient so they can focus on their core business and be the best in their area. Now, when we are talking about cycling and Team Visma | Lease a Bike, it’s natural for me also to connect it to cycling. So, for me, I will say it’s helping the team behind the scenes with all the things we do to help them be the best and be the champions of the road.

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