Truth and fiction in advertising. (Alternate title; Calling all fact checkers.)
My buddy Chris Lesser will approve of this following rant...
Before I get going here, let me just say that I really like the people and the company that is FSA (Full Speed Ahead). I think they make great products and all of the people that I have had the pleasure of working with have been great to deal with. So in advance, I want to make it clear that I am not attacking FSA...
I just received the July '06 issue of ROAD magazine this week (what's with getting "July" in May anyway?). In the magazine is a good ad from the folks at FSA showing Fabian Cancellara, winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix. For those who are not familiar with the event, it is decidedly one of the most grueling one-day events on the calendar and consists of brutal sections of road that are paved with centuries old cobblestones- many believed to have been laid by the Romans. These roads, though they do not comprise the bulk of the event, are the toughest single day of competition that a professional cyclist and their bike will see. This is the proverbial "crucible" for equipment. Due to this, many teams run special products designed to handle the severe punishment of the harsh conditions. Conversely, this event can vault a product to a reputation of being utterly dependable or raise serious questions.
Anway, on to the ad...
Great photo of Fabian kissing his winner's cobblestone. An epic image that will remain etched in many people's minds for many years. It was a great race this year with plenty of drama and controversy- everything the race is famous for. Now, the ad showcases a product and though it does not explicitly say that this is the same product used by Fabian, it certainly alludes to it.
Just one page before this ad, in a two page spread, is a shot of Fabian racing along on his way to victory in the event.
If you look closely at the photo, you'll notice that Fabian is not riding the cranks shown in the FSA ad. I'm not sure if he is riding another FSA non-carbon product instead (which would be the smart choice) or if it is a product from another company (like Shimano).
Now, it isn't a crime to advertise an item that isn't used by your sponsored athlete, but it hurts your credibility, which is my whole point here. FSA makes a very credible product, but the ad suggests something different than reality and, in my opinion, hurts the credibility of the brand. Again, I really like FSA, but this just misses the mark to me. In this new era of transparency, this ad muddies the waters and makes FSA look dishonest. I am pretty sure that is far from what they intended. Seeing as to how FSA makes other products that were actually used on Fabian's winning bike, it would have made sense to either highlight those items or just simply create a "win ad" (where you congratulate your sponsored athlete, while showcasing your involvement with their success).
For FSA, I understand the desire to showcase the success of their sponsored athlete. I would just prefer to have seen the ad reflect reality a bit better, rather than create a possibility for pundits (like me) to question their motives instead of feeling really happy for their success via their sponsorship.
Tim Jackson; Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
(4/25- I received a pretty severe reaming over this post. So let me just reitereate a point made in the beginning of this whole thing; I am in no way attacking FSA. I personally use FSA products and have spec'd them on Masi bikes as well. FSA is a great company with great products. I certainly expect that I will continue to do business with them, unless I get fired for my opinions or FSA refuses to do business with me any longer. The point was with the potentially misleading tone of the magazine ad. It is quite true that many riders/ teams use equipment that is not from the sponsor it is purported to be from and that many riders/ teams ride frames not made by the company whose name is shown on the frame. There's that Merckx guy who rode a Masi with a different name on it, for example...
My apologies for any hint of hypocrisy.)
Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:07 PM