Bespoked Bristol cycles to London

Bespoke1Bespoked Bristol established itself as the greatest handmade bicycle show in Europe. It became the place to drool over beautiful steel creations and wallow in what it took to design the perfect bike. Personally, I loved the event and what it stood for. And all the bike brands who exhibited there who I know seemed to rate it highly.

But Bespoked is now on the move. Its hand forced by Bristol council selling off part of Brunel’s iconic train shed at Temple Meads station, where the event was held for years, Bespoked will surface in 2014 at the new venue of the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London. Exhibitors will set up stands in the velodrome itself, on the flat area inside the track or on the banked seating.

This week I was with a Signal client who wasn’t delighted that the event was moving to London. Nor were they particularly happy with the layout of the event within the velodrome. Others have expressed their sadness that a key trade show has ended up in London. Taking to social media, show exhibitors’ comments included: “That’s a terrible shame”; “The provinces need more active cycling culture”; “I probably will be exhibiting, but I’m not that keen on it being in London to be honest”; and “I just always thought it was great it being in Bristol.”

Organiser Phil Taylor has defended the decision against accusations of Londoncentricism. “We looked all over the country and the velodrome is such an amazing space and it just happens to be London”, he said on Twitter. And, separately, “It has moved once before and coped, so I see no reason why that won’t be the same again.”

Phil has pointed out that the velodrome is “one of the greatest cycling buildings in the world”. It’s the centrepiece of the Lee Valley Velo Park which finally opens to the public on March 4th 2014 – just five weeks before Bespoked arrives on April 11 to April 13. It will certainly be a great chance to visit the new UK cycling facilities to see if that Olympic sparkle remains embedded in the boards and banking. And to once again drool over beautiful steel.

Cycling is the New Golf #2

Further evidence that the business deals done in the past on the golf course are now being done on bikes. Planning this week’s mega-deal between Vodafone and Verizon took place as much in the saddle as in the boardroom. The final price was agreed by the two CEOs, Vittorio Colao of Vodafone and Lowell McAdam of US mobile giant Verizon whilst they were on exercise bikes in the gym of a San Francisco hotel.

The two CEOs share a passion for cycling, that Reuters points out has seen them race together. McAdam socializes with some employees during bike rides or a run rather than over dinner or drinks. Colao lists cycling amongst his main passions, and spends times on two wheels whether climbing in the Alps in his native Italy or cycling between Vodafone stores in London.

If you haven’t already done so, it might be time to put the golf clubs on eBay and stock up on arm warmers and a waterproof gilet for the winter’s business deals.

Cycling is the new golf

It’s already a cliche. The New York Times was first to hail cycling as the new golf back in 2005. In the UK, the Guardian newspaper agreed in 2011. Now the authority that is The Economist has started pedalling the same story: “Traditionally, business associates would get to know each other over a round of golf. But road cycling is fast catching up as the preferred way of networking for the modern professional.” So far, not much insight. But the Economist’s article concludes: “Perhaps the most compelling reason why cycling is a good way to network is because, for many professionals, it’s a passion and a way of life.”

Ah – there’s that passion word again. It’s what Signalyard was founded on – passion-centric marketing. And it’s on passion that I do agree wholeheartedly with the Economist. Personally, I don’t buy cycling being the new golf any more than I bought golf being the old golf. Golf remains a sport that some people (myself not amongst them) are passionately engaged by. And engaging people through their passions, whether on the golf course, the cycle track or out on a ride, usually proves highly effective.

“Google, Yahoo, all the tech companies, they’ve now got executives who are mad keen cyclists. They love cycling’s metrics, all the measurements that are available, from heart rate to power; they love the ‘toys’, carbon road bikes are beautiful pieces of technical equipment; and they love the community angle, cyclists sticking together. They also love the fact cycling is so conducive to travel and exploration. The top tech guys in America love travelling to Europe and often take their bikes.” So says exercise physiologist and former pro triathlete Matt Dixon, who now coaches athletes and serious amateurs, including a number of Silicon Valley’s top executives.

LSE_Cycling_Economy1One of the great pleasures of using cycling, running and skiing as a way to engage broader audiences is that I get to talk to people who are passionate about those sports. At Signalyard, I can turn up to meetings in lycra without raising an eyebrow. Whether the meeting is with an insurance company or a car manufacturer, because we’re talking about engaging people through the universal language of cycling we find it easy to engage clients in the same way.

Of course cycling is itself a major business sector (with over 3.7 million bikes sold each year in the UK) delivering wider socio-economic benefits to the UK (worth £2.9 billion a year to the UK economy according to the LSE’s Gross Cycling Product report). But using cycling as a way to engage people has the potential to grow each of those figures faster still. It’s a way in which we can make cycling even more an everyday part of how people connect, making the simple, universal pleasure of riding a bike in the open air be even more a normal part of life. It’s a way we can get more people onto more bikes. And it’s a way in which we can boost the effectiveness of marketing. Cycling may well be the new golf. But that’s only the beginning.