Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Amgen and EPO at the Tour of California.

I just wanted to take a little moment to clear something up, relative to the Amgen relationship with the Tour of California.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I do personally believe that this is an odd and cumbersome sponsorship relationship. I applaud Amgen for making the effort to put more of their money into cycling. As has been mentioned a lot recently, they have sponsored a very successful club and racing team for years here in Southern California. I have raced with these folks for years and see them both on the road and track regularly.

In my post, I did not intend to insult anybody at Amgen and see that they have paid a few visits to this site since my post. Amgen produces many other drugs critical in treatment and recovery in fighting cancer and other diseases. I have a very close and personal relationship with cancer, that I will not go into here, so I have a lot of respect for what Amgen has done.

My whole point was that from a strictly marketing standpoint, it is a strikingly awkward combination; Amgen and a major bike race. Just on the surface, it smells funny. I wouldn't begin to try and discourage any company from getting involved in cycling sponsorship. The sport needs the money to grow. Amgen does need to be thanked for what they are doing. Speaking solely as a "marketing guy", it is just a tough sell for me. Maybe it would have made more sense to me if the race was being sponsored by a specific drug/ treatment produced by Amgen. That would at least draw attention away from the relationship to EPO.

So to all of those out there who think I've been unfair to Amgen, I apologize for giving the impression I was simply picking on Amgen. To Amgen, I'd like to say thank you for the many wonderful drugs you have brought to the market that help so many people around the world. Thank you too for putting your money into cycling. I hope it pays off for you and I hope the sport of cycling continues to grow in this country... and God help us all if an athlete tests positive for EPO during the Tour of California.


Posted by Tim Jackson at 4:18 PM 0 comments

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The first new Masi ad in two years.

So here's the first ad we've done in a few years and the first ad for Masi that I am responsible for.

Well, go ahead and say that you absolutely love it and are so moved by the dramatic elegance that you are heading to your local shop to purchases this beauty.

Ok, I can live with hearing that you don't hate the ad.

Admittedly, it isn't perfect, but it does do a nice job- I think- of highlighting the history of the brand while showcasing a distinctly different product in a very simple and powerful way.

Pete Demos, our Creative Director (and photographer extraordinaire) took the photo of the bike and we used it in an ad in the Show Daily edition of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRaIN) during Interbike. That particular ad just had the photo of the bike and our show booth number. It was very basic, but I felt that the image of the bike was so strong that we could use it again.

The ad, as seen here, is currently in the newest issue of ROAD magazine. Like I said, it isn't perfect, but the point was to do two things; 1) reconnect the brand to its very long and illustrious history and 2) create an air of mystery and intrigue with the dark space around the bike. Since we already had the photo, all I had to do was come up with the text for the ad. I can't honestly say that I felt it was a home run, but it works. The only problem I really have with the ad is that the word "passion" is used three times and that I never caught it during revisions. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to use the word... just not three times. There's making a point and then there's writer's block induced redundancy.

Also, I wasn't sure about the font used in the ad. In the small proof we created, the lettering seemed a little too small and hard to read. I was a little worried about it until the magazine showed up at work. It reads much better when you are holding the magazine.

Overall, I can live with this ad and I have to since it is already in circulation and people are emailing me, telling me they saw the ad. Maybe the next one will be better, since I'll have more time to prepare the ad. At some point during the year, I will be using one or more of the pro teams I am working with for images in the ads I produce. Hopefully they will be winning races so I can use some good podium pictures, but that is still a few months off.

For now, I'm pretty content with this ad. It really looks much better in person since the magazine uses a rather large page format and the ad is full page. I've committed to several more issues, so I have a few more chances to come up with that one great ad that really grabs some attention. Here's to hoping I'm not afflicted with writer's block again on deadline day.


Posted by Tim Jackson at 12:04 PM 5 comments

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving.

From all of us here, have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families, friends and loved ones.

With all that has happened this year here and abroad, we all have many things to be thankful for and need to remember those who are less fortunate.

Enjoy the holiday and the time away from work (if you are away from work).

Tim and the Kool-Aid Krew

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:03 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bad blood?

My marketing friends and I are a little torn on the issue of Amgen (maker of banned blood boosting agent EPO) sponsoring the inaugural Tour of California. This could be a great partnership or a really bad one.

First off, I applaud any US company for getting involved with a major event in this country. Cycling has proven to be a very hard sell in the US, even with the "Lance factor" of recent years. It is no small financial undertaking that Amgen is committing to and I think they should be thanked for their generosity, even if it seems entirely misplaced.

Though I applaud Amgen, I have serious reservations about this stunning marriage. Cycling, like all sports (don't fool yourself into believing otherwise), is in the middle of numerous drug related controversies. The drug of choice? EPO. EPO, among other things, increases the oxygen carrying potential of blood. This leads to better recovery, better muscle function and the potential for better performance during racing and training. Essentially, it makes the body better at supplying oxygen to hungry muscles and improves performance that way. Amgen was on the front of developing the drug and certainly had no idea it would end up becoming the endurance athlete's drug of choice. Still, the dark shadow of EPO has been sullying the reputation of cycling for years now.

Sport with bad image, meet maker of drug that has contributed significantly to the problems in your sport. Maybe the two of you can work together and make something happen. Maybe a bike race, as opposed to helping to create a better and more reliable test to detect the presence of the drug in athletes who use the drug to get an unfair advantage.

On top of this absurd relationship sits two different governing bodies in the sport who have given their blessing to this catastrophe; USA Cycling (the US governing body) and the UCI (the international governing body). Both of these federations could have said, "you know, this just doesn't look right, when we are sending the public message that we are against doping in our sport." Instead, they said, "well, so long as the check doesn't bounce, you've bought yourself a bike race!" Now, I totally understand why they did it- money. Corporate money at that. That's really hard to come by in this sport and industry. Without that money, I'm sure the race would not be happening this coming year. BUT... it sends the wrong message. The World Anti Doping Association, WADA, has been at odds with cycling for years now and certainly feels even more justified now. It is rather akin to having Budweiser as the corporate sponsor for Alcoholics Anonymous. It might work, but is sure looks bad from the outside.

Amgen professes, and I do not doubt them, that the sponsorship is to showcase their support of the sport and to draw a positive connection between Amgen and cycling. Plus, the hope is that they can promote the other drugs they have developed for such worthy foes as kidney disease and cancer. No doubt, Amgen is doing some wonderful things in the medical world, but do they really need to sponsor a bike race?

This, to me, is a good example of the right intentions going horribly wrong and a bad Marketing/PR decision.


Posted by Tim Jackson at 7:46 PM 0 comments

Monday, November 21, 2005

Something that works now. (Hi SRAM!)

Anybody who follows my primary blog knows I am a fan of the still-to-be-released SRAM road components. SRAM is a very savvy company when it comes to their marketing efforts, not just now, but always. Right now however, the impending release of their new road components has been a marketing coup!

Everybody has been anticipating a SRAM road group for some time now, especially as the company acquired other brands to complete the puzzle. Avid for brakes and TruVativ for cranksets and bottom brackets. With SRAM already having the chains and cogs worked out and a very formidable reputation in shifting components on the dirt side of things, it has really been a matter of when and not if.

What makes their efforts so great so far is that they have leaked out "spy shots" of the product prototypes, as ridden in major US events by sponsored pro riders, to help get the internet all abuzz with anticipation and curiosity. Hell, I was blogging the stuff the day I saw the first images on VeloNews and Cyclingnews (sorry, couldn't find the link to the article in question). Then, they get Product Managers from bike companies, like me, to look at the product in a special unveiling in the desert outside of Vegas and then hold us to secrecy... all the while the internet is going completely nuts about the stuff and wondering "how does it work?" I was busting at the seams to tell people how the shifting works, but I couldn't... until after the professional media released details. More details are still being held in total secrecy, including pricing and release dates, but the buzz is definitely growing. One of the best little bits; they've hired somebody to join the company just to handle the European team relations and to grow the number of pro teams in Europe using the products this coming year. Now, I haven't heard anything about who will be riding the products in 2006, but it will be somebody and the bikes will be getting photographed constantly.

I'm no genius, but I feel like they pretty much have the world at their doorstep right now. I was so impressed by the products when I played with the rough prototypes that I would have signed my company up for the first run of components... but I fortunately work with our Senior Product Development Manager and he serves as the sobering voice of reason. 1st incarnation of any company's parts can be a little scary, but SRAM has done such a good job with their secret, viral marketing that I fully expect that many manufacturers and consumers alike will be willing to take the gamble, just in case the parts work like a charm. I know I'm anxiously waiting for some parts to bolt to my bike so I can test them out in real world conditions.

SRAM- you get the first nod of approval from the old curmudgeon Masiguy. Now that I've mentioned your name and you're trolling the web for references to the new parts... can I have some?

Tim Jackson- Masiguy

Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:36 PM 0 comments

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another stupid bicycle industry blog?

I know the blogosphere is becoming terribly crowded. I said to myself, "hey, self, let's cram yet another blog into the blogosphere, but make it focused on Marketing and PR (that's Public Relations for those of you who have been living under a rock- or in Canada- for the past few decades)." Once I was done talking to myself, which the bike industry will eventually make you do, I got this little blog started.

Why on earth would I want to do a blog about Marketing/PR in the bicycle industry? Because I love bicycles, the sport, the industry and even Marketing/PR itself. Plus, I know a lot of smart and savvy people in the marketing world, both in and out of the bike industry, and a lot of other brainiacs. I figured this would give us all a chance to share our thoughts on the things we do and don't like about advertising, marketing and PR efforts in the cycling world. From the US to anywhere in the world, there are lots of good and bad efforts being made to get people onto bikes or into cycling. Really, it's a very active little slice of the world.

Cycling is a small industry in a big world, but the industry and sport are both filled to the brim with people who are very passionate. That passion can breed some really great things... and some things that are not so great too.

One of the best parts of this project is that when I got this idea, I immediately committed to the ideal that nobody is off limits- including myself and my friends. Hey, we all have to be able to laugh at ourselves and be able to admit when somebody else is doing a good job. There are a lot of ideas that I really like, respect and admire. There are also ones that I think fall short of the target. We'll take a look at these things and see what opinions are. Maybe I will point a finger at something and laugh, while somebody else thinks I'm an ignorant ass for doing so. This should be a lot of fun and maybe, just maybe, we'll all learn a little something along the way.

I hope you'll keep coming by and visiting because I hope to have some great commentary from all sorts of people and maybe even some contributors who will enlighten and amuse as well.

(PS- I was only joking about the Canada thing. I swear. I love Canada. I know smart people from Canada and hope they will come to visit. I don't know why the national symbol is a Maple Leaf, but hey- to each their own.)

Posted by Tim Jackson at 4:14 PM 4 comments