LONDON--Pro Team Astana, the Kazakh-backed professional road bicycle racing team, has handed global PR duties to Weber Shandwick.
The assignment, worth an estimated £400K, will see the firm attempt to use the team’s success to build a better positioning for Kazakhstan. Weber Shandwick is also charged with providing on-ground support for Pro Team Astana throughout its 2012 races, which include the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.
“We want to use the riders and the team to get media to re-evaluate perceptions of Kazakhstan,” said Weber Shandwick director of new business and enterprise Peter Jacob. “They are using it as a way to showcase Kazakhstan and knock down some of those stereotypes.”
The assignment is to be led by Weber Shandwick’s sport practices in London and Milan, and will focus on Western Europe, with some Russian outreach. The firm has also been tasked with running all digital and social media activity for Pro Team Astana.
Pro Team Astana is backed by sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, which owns numerous key Kazakh companies, including major interests in energy, finance and transportation. It is understood that another goal of the PR assignment is to attract more sponsors.
After tasting considerable success with a line-up that included Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, Pro Team Astana faced financial collapse in mid-2009, before seeing a number of riders and team manager Johan Bruyneel depart at the end of that season. Since then, the team has been comprised of Kazakh and Spanish riders, led by Alexandr Vinokourov, and remains one of the most successful squads on the UCI circuit.
“Our goal has always been and will continue to be undisputed leaders in cycling,” said Pro Team Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli. “We’ve therefore appointed one of the world's best public relations group to become leaders also in global communications”.