Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Rocky Mountain Bicycles: Mission Accomplished

As you all know by now, I'm not the bike geek of the group. Tim's mentioned before that I bring a unique perspective to the Krew because, well, I'm not a cyclist. I ride my bicycle. Sometimes. I'm what you would call a recreational rider. Plain and simple. It's why I actually like to look through Bicycling Magazine every month. It is written for folks like me. Velonews is for the true cyclists who love racing and love to follow the sport (ok, I read that, too...).

What does all of this fascinating personal tidbit mean? It means that I pay attention to the ads in Bicycling - ah-ha...this does have to do with marketing and not just my pitiful recreational riding!

Got the new Bicycling today and found an ad that is perfect in its simplicity. It reminded me that sometimes simple is better. As marketers we want our collateral pieces to say it all. Ads should give our full message and then some, right? After all we pay a lot of money for creative and then the ad buy - it should just sell our product right from the page, right? I mean...Right?! So we contort ourselves to be original and stand out in the crowd and jam it all in to one 8x10 page or one tri-fold brochure. Well, frankly, sometimes it gets cluttered and too much.

Then there are the ads that use the pro cyclists. Sure, they can be very simple - a pro crossing the line first in a stage of the latest tour using X product. Great...except that Suzi Recreational Cyclist (me and thousands like me) isn't going to be entering any races and she'll think it's too above her level (maybe she's right).

How do you get to everyone? Suzi Recreational and someone who is serious about riding, be that road or mountain bike? Easy. Find something simple and universal to hit upon in your ad or message. Yes, I know, easier said than done! But Rocky Mountain Bicycles has done just that in their latest ad, in my humble opinion.

The full-page ad is simply a picture of a hand - palm to the camera/viewer. Where there are life lines and such there are three bike tire treads. Two lines of copy at the bottom left corner simply say:

Hand-crafted bikes since 1981.
It's our life.

Wow. That says it all to me. This is a company with passion. Passion for cycling. Passion for the product they manufacture. It's not just a place that makes bikes for a living - this is a way of life for this company. It doesn't hurt that their website is either. Passion.

See? Packed a lot of message into one photo and two little lines. Ok, I don't know if that is what they were trying to convey or not, but it's good messaging even if this is slightly off what they had in mind. I have a great feeling about this company from their ad and, actually, went and checked out their website because I wanted to know more...yup, me...Suzi Recreational. They got me to go to their site because of their ad - mission accomplished. Ok, the full mission is to get the reader to buy the bike and I'm not going to do that because I don't need a new bike, but it doesn't mean that someone else who went to the site isn't going to go to their local shop and try a Rocky Mountain Bicycle.

Bravo to the Rocky Mountain Bicycle marketing team!

Posted by Donna Tocci at 3:08 PM 3 comments

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tim Trivia

You all know Tim as the Chief Dispenser (CD) here at the Krew's site and some of you know him as Masiguy. However....
- did you know that Masiguy is originally from Alabama?
- did you know that Tim has worked on a shrimp boat?
- did you know that CD once worked in a hat shop?

How do I know all this? Read it in Tim Jackson's Blogger Story. Check it out and learn more about our favorite Dispenser.

Posted by Donna Tocci at 2:40 PM 1 comments

Friday, May 19, 2006

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 11 comments

Friday, May 05, 2006

Yes, we're still alive...

It's that time of year, for many of us in the bike industry, when it is very hard to keep your head above water. It feels like you are just barely staying afloat some days (for some of us that is the feeling nearly every day). Maybe you are a Brand Manager, scrambling feverishly to complete your product line, finish graphics, work on a catalog, figure out budget planning for next year and still find time in the schedule to travel and sell. Maybe you are trying to cover the racing scene. Maybe you have lots of travel and seminars to attend, presentations to make and people to talk to. Or, maybe, you have a new child and are reveling in parenthood and are missing a little sleep. Right now, for many of us, this is about at "bad" as it gets. (For the record, none of us are complaining because we know we've got it good.)

With that said, please don't give up on the Krew. We're here. We still have ideas. We still want to talk and share and keep the dialog going. On behalf of my fellow contributors, I'd like to assure you that we haven't gone anywhere. On top of that, some big things are on the horizon that you will not want to miss. You just have to trust me when I say that things are going to just get better around here.

So please bare with us as we all struggle with deadlines and hectic schedules. We'll be back bigger, badder and better than ever.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:56 PM 2 comments

How not to keep a sponsor or get a new one.

I admit, up front, that this post is probably a bit more personal bias than it is marketing related. Bare with me on this and wait until the end to pass judgement... even though this is sure to stir a bit of discussion.

Wear your damn helmet Jackass! Ok, I said it. I got it off my chest... I feel marginally better now. As mentioned above, hear me out...

I am alive today because I wear a helmet. I didn't always and I will occasionally ride from my office, two blocks to the deli to pick up my lunch without a helmet on, but outside of that I wear a helmet every single time I get on a bicycle. Sure, maybe I'd gain style points and Euro-wannabe steet cred' if I trained without a helmet on. With a wife and two children though, I'm not just riding for myself anymore. Every action I make effects other people who rely on me to come home each day. That's a pretty strong motivator for me. Plus, as much as I hate to admit it, my "public life" makes me something of an example to a few people who happen to pay attention to what I do or say. Believe it or not, that means something to me. Yeah, yeah... I know the lame argument of freedom and comfort, but that is the lamest BS I've ever heard. How cool or free are you going to be when you are in a hospital bed with a tube in your mouth doing the breathing for you while your friends and family stand around wiping the drool off of your face? In my humble opinion, not too darned cool. Hey, I'll happily stay a nerd with zero style if it keeps me alive long enough to watch my kids grow old. (I had a teammate once, on a really powerful team, who would turn around and ride a different direction if anybody showed up without a helmet for a training ride because he didn't want to be the one to have to call somebody's wife and tell her that her husband was dead or injured because he was too cool to wear a helmet.)

I'm done with the preaching part of all of this and will now step down off my high horse and off of the soap box. I'm not saying I won't be there again, but I'm done for the moment. Long enough to get to the point anyway.

I won't name names, but there is a local club here in San Diego that has a pretty good elite race team. This elite team has done really well this year too. Won some nice races against some pro teams even. They should be proud of themselves and I know that they are. This team is supported, in part, by the club of probably more than 300 members. This club works very hard to promote the sport of cycling and to develop junior riders who will one day move up to become great pro riders or elite amateurs. They are an ambitious club and they have done a lot in San Diego over the years. With all that said, their elite team has done a great job of insuring that I won't be sponsoring them. I might be willing to work out something with the director of the junior program, but the elite team is out of the question.

Why is this? Well, as you might have guessed by the opening paragraphs, it's because they don't wear helmets. The entire elite team isn't guilty and they all have to wear helmets during races, since those are the rules, but I almost daily see members of the team out on training rides without helmets on. On a personal level I see this as total idiocy, but as a manufacturer in the industry (and this is the whole point of this diatribe) I see this as very poor potential representation for my brand. These guys are supposed to be representing their sponsors and their team, but they are doing a crappy job of it. I don't honestly know if they have an official team helmet sponsor, but if they do and I was that helmet sponsor I'd be really pissed. If these morons want to look cool, fine, do it out of the team gear. If you're going to be making an ass of yourelf, at least do the team and the sponsors the favor of wearing clothing that doesn't tie you to them. Guilt by association, as the saying goes.

Honestly, I don't want to have anything to do with the team for this reason. It proves to me that they do not honor their sponsors or the values of the club. Remember, this club is developing junior riders too. Whether the guys on the elite team want to admit it or not, the junior kids are watching them and what they do and some of them even look up to the guys on the elite team and want to be like them. (I do not support athletes serving as role models and think it is ridiculous for people to expect them to be "perfect".) I don't like it any more than the elite riders do, but that is what happens.

If I provided the team with frames and then saw the guys racing on another brand, I'd be pissed off and would be having a serious talk with the team director. If I were a helmet sponsor for a team, even a Pro Tour team riding the Tour de France, and the riders were always being photographed without my helmet on, I'd be pissed off and pulling my money out of the program. Maybe I'm alone, or nearly alone, in this particular belief. Maybe not. It is something I feel strongly about though and is something that teams should consider when sending me their sponsorship requests.

Bottom line, for teams looking to gain new sponsors or keep existing sponsors, the name of the game is "be a good ambassador". Look good. Act smart. Be thankful.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
(In all fairness, this critique applies to the wonderful Pro/ Elite team that I currently sponsor. Wear your helmets if you want to keep your sponsorship... I won't be at the next training camp if a helmet rule isn't enforced.)

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:53 PM 4 comments