In the world of UCI cycling teams, Astana Continental and Astana Pro Team hold a rather unique position. Unlike football clubs, or other similar sports teams, UCI cycling teams usually don’t have their own names. Rather, they carry the names of their main sponsors, like Team Sky or the US Postal Service Team.
Astana is not sponsored by any ordinary private company. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to claim that the team is sponsored by the people of Kazakhstan. The Astana cycling project is the brainchild of the Kazakhstan Government, which is why the team carries the name of the nation’s Capital, not an ordinary brand name.
Main Official Sponsors
The Astana teams are officially sponsored by the Samruk Kazyna, a Sovereign Wealth Fund of the nation of Kazakhstan. Formed in 2008 by the President of Kazakhstan, the Fund is also a joint stock company with full or partial ownership stakes in some of the biggest companies and service providers in Kazakhstan. They have been the main sponsor of the Astana Continental Team as well as the Astana Pro team. Both the teams have carried their logo on the jerseys since the very beginning. The company has strong ties with the city of Astana and the government of Kazakhstan. Their current Chairman Umirzak Shukeyev was a former mayor of Astana city as well as former Deputy Prime Minister.
So why did Samruk Kazyna name the team Astana and not give it their own name? Well, whenever a brand or corporation funds a UCI cycling team, they do it to raise their own profile and visibility, a marketing ploy to be exact. The Astana Cycling program, and the Astana Continental and Pro teams were conceived as a marketing program designed to raise the global profile of an entire nation. That is why they carry the name of the capital and the national colours (sky blue and yellow) on their jerseys.
The Samruk Kazyna has ownership or controlling stake in numerous companies in Kazakhstan. They include the likes of Kazakhtelecom, Kazpost, Samruk-Energy and Air Astana, the national air carrier. Since Astana Continental is wholly owned by Samruk Kazyna, over the years, the names of some of these companies have also appeared on their jersey.
The most prominent in recent years was Air Astana, which appeared as the main logo on their jersey several years ago. The national carrier of Afghanistan has strong roots in Astana, the national capital which is also its primary hub. It is a JV between Samruk Kazyna and BAE Systems PLC.
Other Prominent Sponsors
* Astana Motors: The Astana teams are also sponsored by Astana Motors, one of the main auto mobile dealers in the country. The company is the authorized dealer of prominent auto brands like Hyundai, Subaru, Toyota and Lexus.
* Raimbek Group: The Kazakh company, the national manufacturer of a popular range of bottled juices, was a sponsor of Astana cycling teams.
* Specialized: The Italian performance bikes and accessories company are an official partner of the Astana Cycling project. The company is known for their high performance bikes and cycling gear for everything from mountains to road and fitness biking. They are the official bike suppliers for the Astana team. The bikes used in road races are the Venge/S-Works tarmac models. The Shiv models are used in time trials.
* Corima: Astana Pro team won most of their memorable Tour victories while using the Corima performance wheels on their bikes. Their Specialized bikes use Corima wheels.
* Campagnolo: the high-end racing components manufacturer from Italy are a well known partner of Astana cycling. The groupsets (or “gruppo”, the collection of gears, brakes, drivetrain and any other mechanical or electronic parts on a bike) of Astana bikes are supplied exclusively by this Italian brand.
* MOA Sport: Owned by the renowned Italian cycling apparel company Nalini, Moa is a premier performance cycling apparel brand. The Astana team uses jerseys crafted by the Moa brand.
* Santero: the Italian sparkling wine brand is another current official partner.
* Tunap Sports: the German bike accessories maker is another partner of the Astana teams.
* Tacx: A British bike accessories and fitness equipment and tech firm.
The current Astana jersey has caught the eye with the logo of the Astana 2017 Expo emblazoned prominently in the front. The International Exposition (or World Fair) is slated to take place in the home city of Astana Continental in September 2017. The Samruk Kazyna and its companies are playing a key part in sponsoring and organizing the Expo. Widely considered as a fantastic opportunity to showcase the nation to a global audience, the expo has Air Astana, Samruk Energy it comes as no surprise that the Government and Samruk Kazyna has roped in the famous Astana teams to promote the event in the 2016-17 season.