Cycling’s position as the c-suite’s way of networking and connecting is not a new trend. It was widely reported seven years ago that board members were swapping golf clubs for lycra and the fact remains that the sport still holds a place in the heart of many key decision makers across a wide range of industries.
The interest of that specific demographic is already being leveraged at the professional level, with brands aiming to associate themselves with top riders and events to influence some of the sport’s highest-earning fans. However, whilst the eyes of the world might be on a major cycling tour for a few weeks a year, there are more holistic ways to associate a brand with the sport across 12 months.
Endurance events have enjoyed a boom period over the last 10 years, with the options available to runners, cyclists and other amateur athletes continuing to broaden. It is no longer the lonely pursuit it once was, with Strava clubs, online forums and social groups driving networking and engagement throughout the year. COVID-19 meant that mass participation took a hit, but few believe this hit will be long-lasting.
“The UK cycling market grew by more than 45% in 2020 and enjoyed a huge boom during the pandemic when people turned to the sport to stay active,” says Nick Tuppen, CEO of Threshold Sports. “Those increases are starting to slow, but most importantly, momentum is continuing, and we are experiencing more interest than ever from participants and partners in some of our own events.”
This includes Ride Across Britain, a nine-day endurance challenge that sees participants cycle the length of the UK. The 2022 edition sold out at the end of January, with over 1,000 people now facing the task of training for the event in September.
Many will sign up as part of an organisation, using the opportunity to team build and create a positive company culture through sport. Others will see it as a grand challenge and will look for guidance in many areas, including from event organisers. This is where partners of mass participation cycling events could see true return on investment for sponsorship.
“The very nature of endurance events is that they require an extended preparation time,” adds Tuppen. “As a result, it means our events – including cycling challenges like Ride Across Britain or Sidley London Revolution – allow for extended contact time with participants. Social media posts, email updates, training plans. There are many touchpoints for the event brand, and as an extension any sponsors, to reach participants.”
For running events, this includes a broader demographic more evenly split across genders and with lower barriers to entry. This makes it the perfect platform for a brand with a wide scope, but not always ideal for a targeted approach.
However, for those looking to access purely high-earners and decision makers, cycling is the ideal route.
Ride Across Britain is a good example of how endurance cycling can reach targeted, high-earning decision makers. Participants were, on average, males aged 47 or above and earned more than £80,000 a year. They also represented more than 30 countries, illustrating that whilst stages were purely UK-based, the participants offered a global perspective.
There are numerous other touchpoints as well, image transfer, brand exposure from title sponsorship, visibility in the title and consistent communications being just a selection.
Whilst brand recognition and access to key decision makers through sponsorship is one benefit, there are also elements that can be incorporated into team building and corporate engagement. That was a key reason for law firm Sidley Austin LLP to partner London Revolution, a cycling endurance event which sees participants take on a 250km, 360 degree loop around the UK’s capital and surrounding countryside, as a title sponsor.
“At its core, cycling is still seen as physical activity, but the growing need to find better modes of transports in city locations brings a sharper focus on cycling as a possibility,” Thomas Thesing, Sidley’s office managing partner in London, said. “Sidley wants to use London Revolution to encourage more people to hop on their bikes and realise that cycling around their city is not just a great way to stay fit, but a highly efficient form of transport too. We are proud to support London Revolution in its mission to help people and companies to achieve greater things, and we embrace this opportunity to join with them in promoting healthy mind, body and spirit across our city.”