Michael Ball, the outspoken CEO of the Rock Racing team, is a cycling fan and businessman on a mission. Operating in a duplicitous role, Ball has successfully managed to be both a shrewd manager and excited cycling fan, without having to sacrifice one for the other. And as his Rock & Republic clothing brand gains recognition in the US and abroad, Ball also is seeing his team gain more acceptance in the world of cycling.
Michael Ball the CEO of Rock & Republic, the master brand builder, decided from the beginning that he wanted to bring a hip, aggressive, chic image to cycling. He decided to do this by making his team attention grabbing, both athletically and stylistically. The Rock kits are varied depending on the race, and almost every version is for sale (or soon will be) on the Rock Racing store site. Check it out when you get a chance, and try not to faint.
Set up in three sections, the Rock store offers team kits, long and short sleeved T-shirts, hats, stickers, track suits and jackets, and water bottles. The prices are astounding. Want the super cool "Manhattan Beach Team Bib Short'"? If so, get out your credit card, as you'll be plunking down about $460 for the full kit. Insane to some, but to the fast-growing Rock Nation, it's a small price to pay to feel like the coolest cyclist on earth.
Ball realizes that cycling is not a sport without private money. Most amateur cyclists are well-off, and have little difficulty financing their cycling addiction. They'll pay for items that they want, and who wouldn't want a Rock kit? It's California Cool Man! And Michale Ball the brand builder understands this. From years in the fashion industry, he has learned that good product sells. If you build it they will come.
Michael Ball the cycling fan meanwhile, wanted a team of powerful riders right away. He didn't have a ton of street cred, so he went after wild cards, and was mostly successful in getting his money's worth out of them. Mario Cipollini, though not with the team long, was invaluable in helping Ball make a huge splash at the year's first big US race, the Tour of California. The Rock team didn't garner any big results, but they were undoubtedly the most talked about team at the Tour of California.
Other riders, though not successful in the results category, have increased Rock's exposure due to their past accomplishments. Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Botero, though long past their primes, have nevertheless garnered multiple interviews and call ups as they have progressed through the season. Even tattooed Kale Leogrande has been important, as he plays the role of wild card bad boy on the team.
After having seen the Rock outfit mature over the past few months, it is looking more and more like the Rock team really is "Here to Stay," as their tag line states. Michael Ball has done it his way, under intense industry backlash, from start to finish. But he doesn't appear done yet. With big plans already underway in the arena of philanthropy, Ball is showing more and more that he plans on his Rock Racing outfit being one of the dominators of the cycling scene in the coming years. Any one who previously doubted Ball's commitment now must admit their folly. He's not only committed, he's resolute. Which in the world of cycling is a very scary thing.