SunGod: “For us, ‘Momentum’ means the changes happening in women’s cycling” – Reports

The first Tour de France Women this summer means the time has come for a new campaign celebrating women’s cycling. Zoe Watkiss, CEO of performance eyewear brand SunGod, explains why

By Graham Willgoss

This piece first appeared in the August edition of our newly revamped BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here

SunGod painted a 21m mural on the Zig Zag Road in Box Hill in Surrey reading ‘MOMENTUM’. Can you tell us more?
“Momentum” for us means the changes that are happening in women’s cycling, but also the fact that there is still a lot to do. Let’s celebrate this positive change – greater fairness not just in cycling, but in women’s sport in general.

This is what excites us. We recently made a foray into cycling, but we cover a lot of sports and that’s at the heart of what we do.

We’ve wanted to do this for a long time: celebrate change and raise awareness. Even if it raises more awareness in markets or people for whom it’s not really on their radar or who are just getting into the sport or are young.

From grassroots athletes to elite athletes, like [pro rider] sabrina [Stultiens] and Liv Racing-Xstra, we’re trying to play our part in bringing a little more fairness to the sport, but also creating some noise and driving change.

You are based in Verbier, Switzerland, at SunGod. Why choose Box Hill?
We wanted an iconic place that people would resonate with, know the name and get a bit of a thumbs up. And we also had to find a road that could be closed!

We’re a small player in this industry, but we like to punch above our weight and we’ve had to work quite hard with the National Trust. The last time they shut it down was for the 2012 Olympics. They didn’t do it for another brand!

But my team worked really hard to explain our mission and get them behind the cause. Yes, it’s a mural, but we’re also releasing a limited edition product and doing a lot of things to promote the greater cause. [including a film with Liv Racing-Xstra].

So I guess they got on board because they were excited about what we were doing and they were willing to work with maybe a smaller British brand.

We also go for B Corp [sustainability standard], which is the holy grail of sustainability, and we almost got our certification approved. Put profit on the same level as people. And they shared that goal.

How important is the Tour de France Women this summer for a brand that invests in women’s cycling?
It’s really exciting for us because a lot of the women we support in cycling are at different levels. We just faced a women’s WorldTour team [with Liv Racing-Xstra]so it’s really exciting that they can compete.

And it actually allows us to uplift and send vibes to a lot more people. As soon as this race is on the calendar, it will only help this message to transcend. I think overall the audience for women’s sports is growing, especially in cycling.

So for us, it opens up a whole new sporting arena, a whole new level of athletes that we can sponsor and work with, and also inspire the younger generation. It’s a women’s WorldTour team that we sponsored before a men’s team [team]but it is planned for us, I hope, soon.

The Women’s Tour de France covers a very small part of France. Would you like the route to have more cycling markers?
The eight steps are a great start and we really can’t wait to celebrate this positive change. But of course we would ideally like – and I don’t know what the governing body thinks about that, there has to be a plan – for it to go eight, 10, 12.

I would like to see this increase [as the race gets older]. Certainly from a sponsor’s perspective, but also for progression and momentum. It seems like the obvious thing is happening.

And it will encourage people in the sport to keep going, to want to campaign and talk about it and to know that it’s not a one-off thing – and to showcase these iconic places that inspire people to watch, travel and talk.

A women’s Tour de France has existed intermittently, and in various forms, since 1984. Is it important for you as a brand to say that you were there for this new start?
Absolutely. The InternationalElles [an amateur team who rode the same route as the 2019 men’s Tour de France to campaign for a women’s equivalent] were the first women’s team we boarded. And it just grew from there.

It feels good to say that it’s not something we just do to jump on the bandwagon. It’s who we are. And hopefully that will expand to other brands and other people in the industry. We have some very big brands in our sights.

But we want to do things a little more dynamically, a little more personally. Our background was not cycling. It was water sports, surfing, kite surfing, skiing – action sports.

If we can bring that same brand kudos to the cycling industry, trying to make a difference, but also being part of that core group of cyclists who are so passionate about what they do – and that’s just ballooning – so that’s a pretty cool thing for us.

And that’s something we’re excited to tackle as a new market.

Men’s cycling is indeed 100 years ahead. Do you feel like the weight of history is against you?
It’s the same as with durability. If everyone expects it to go from zero to “we’re perfect” and no plastic, that’s not realistic. And it’s the same in sport, unfortunately. It’s a historical thing, of course.

But cutting corners while celebrating this positive change – that’s not fairness yet, and it will take time to get there. “Momentum” is quite an interesting and positive word for us because we like to inspire, so it perfectly captures the change that is happening.

Were going. Let’s keep it up, keep talking about it, keep celebrating what’s happening, and keep moving forward.


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