These might not be bad times for cycling. People are hard up, companies are tightening their budgets.
Cycling does not charge an entry fee. On television too it's generally available on free to view chanels. This is the sport of the people. Football involves paying lots to view it either on satelite chanels or costs money to go and see it live. Footballers and other athletes have incredibly over-inflated salaries running into several millions, incomes that dwarf all but the greatest champions in cycling.
The "Volta a Portugal" regularly gets between 40% and 50% share in television viewing. As well as this there is the extra coverage in the national paper some times running to an extra supplement. And the massive crowds which inundate the finishes of races here run into the hundreds of thousands. To buy into this and another 90 races you need a mere €350 000 -the price of a house- to finance a Continental professional team for a year. It also keeps about 20 people employed. Here are just the Volta's viewing figures:
Cycling mirrors the state of society through the hardships the athlete's endure, often for no glory and little money.
The cyclists may not become known in the same way as other athlete's, but this is due more to a media discrimination as pointed out by Fernando Alonso before a training ride with Carlos Sastre.
Cycling is a sport any kid with a bike can take up. It doesn't require a pitch, or a gym hall or a pool. Merelly a road and any bike will do to allow a 12 year old access to the sport. You don't even need other people to do it with, as proven by the time trialists.
It's cheap, it's accesible, it's exiting. As a marketing tool in these times, it is ideal.