Get on yer bike!
14th March 2019
As summer is finally upon us, and the roads are filling up with MAMILs – also known as ‘Middle Aged Men in Lycra’, the rest of us are left wondering: What happened to cycling in UK to cause this growth in popularity?
Once a niche sport pursued by a few die-hard loyalists cycling has now become a mainstream activity. This is not solely down to one thing or person – whether that’s crowded roads and the ‘Bike To Work’ schemes, the long-running Bradley Wiggins & The Tour de France trend or even the legacy of the London Olympics. These are all facets of something that has a deeper and more emotionally significant and powerful root.
Cycling ultimately has become more fun, aspirational and emotionally rewarding because of the development of new gadgets and gizmos. The creation of shiny new kit offers a chance to show off, giving consumers something to lust after and own. In short, cycling has become ‘Golf on Wheels’.
The golf boom of the 1980s started before farmers started converting land to golf courses – that was just a response to consumer’s behaviour. The explosion in numbers of golfers was driven first and foremost by the proliferation of products that promised gains and improvements – oversized clubs to ‘correct’ a poor swing, flashy new electric golf trolleys, super new flight enhanced balls and bright new clothing. The average quality of golf for the mainstream golfer did not change – but the value of kit did. In much the same way the new breed of cyclists are not noticeably any better or faster than their predecessors.
Both hobbies have sold – in marketing speak – ‘the sizzle, not the sausage’. They focused on how the sport made you feel. They knew you’d want to feel successful and stylish for having the latest kit and played on the envy you’d feel when looking at the chap with better gear than you. They sold the aspiration and enjoyment of belonging, owning and displaying. The sport – whether it’s golf or cycling – is just a vehicle for these innate emotional needs and pleasures.
So, as marketers, what can we learn from this? In any category, it’s essential to understand the base underlying motivations that will make people want to spend their hard-earned cash on your product. Understand these and you can move your product and category from niche to more mainstream. You can sell the sizzle – the emotions – and not just the sausage – the basic foodstuff.
That, after all, is what this industry is all about.