The Cox Charities Cycling Classic in Providence, R.I., has grown from a small race held on a college campus six years ago into an event drawing 500 riders and sponsorships from about 14 cable networks.
The ride now raises $30,000 for local charities. And this year it will raise awareness of Cox Communications’ plan to introduce wireless phone service in its Rhode Island operating turf — just as it faces new competition in television and other services from a telephone company.
The event occurs on June 24, the same month regional phone provider Verizon Communications is expected to bring its FiOS multichannel TV and high-speed Internet service to Rhode Island, where Cox is the dominant cable provider. The Classic will help Cox publicize the introduction of Pivot wireless phone service, in conjunction with Sprint Nextel, the communications supplier.
“It’s just a wonderful sort of convergence, the business part on top of the Cox Charities corporate initiative,” Cox vice president of business operations Gary Dalton said of the event he helped create, after first seeking Cox’s backing for a cycling team he’s involved with locally.
That sponsorship led to the charity event as a way to “give something back,” and to this year’s version, which will promote the wireless service launch emerging from Cox’s participation in a joint venture with Sprint and other big cable companies such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast.
“Now all of a sudden we’ve got this business link that is so critical to us,” Dalton said. “Verizon’s coming into our market. … The timing of the event is just perfect with the launch of Pivot.”
The event’s official name this time around is “Cox Charities Cycling Classic Presented by Pivot from Cox and Sprint.”
The 500 bike racers’ bibs will say Pivot, there will be a Pivot booth and race spectators can enter to win a Pivot-branded bike and get product information. Those sign-ups will become possible sales leads for when the service launches, sometime this summer, probably not long after the race. (Cox markets that have already launched Pivot are San Diego, Phoenix and Oklahoma.)
Race announcers will be scripted to talk about Pivot and its features throughout race day, Cox New England public-affairs director Leigh Ann Woisard said.
Last year, Showtime, a sponsor, arranged for the cast of the series Brotherhood, which is set in Providence, to attend the event. This time, show star Kevin Chapman will be on hand as well, meeting and greeting.
But for Dalton, who is the equivalent of a chief financial officer for the 450,000-subscriber Cox New England system, there will be no time for competitive cycling on June 24. As race director, he’s got too much to do.
“What began as my quaint little project is now totally out of my hands,” he said.
Where the first year’s event raised about $10,000 for Cox Charities New England, this year’s version is expected to raise about $30,000, Woisard said. The local Cox Charities unit distributes more than $100,000 in grants to community groups in the Rhode Island and Connecticut markets, focused on “kids and education,” she said.
The local Cox Sports Television channel — which airs games from local colleges and minor-league baseball games — will promote the race and air post-cycling coverage and, of course, plug Pivot.
“As we prepare for head-to-head video competition with Verizon, these types of community events that help us differentiate Cox and its products are more critical than ever before,” Woisard said.
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