Monday, 21 February 2011

Action Man 41

For a few years now I have been working in a cross over world between corporate property developers, big brands and adventure sports. I spend much of my life advising companies how to work with adventure sports from the outside. The trick is essentially understanding your market, what do they like, what are there elegancies, what works within the sports language and what looks bad and ultimately turns off the core sports participant. A total classic was a well know shaving brand using images of clean shaven snowboarders rubbing there smooth chins, whilst performing inverted 360 spins, just too god dam clean and what was worse they dressed the poor models up in ski gear.

The overall affect is to make the brand look ill informed, too try hard and the laughing stock of every snowboarder in the western world. However if the same company then decided to sponsor a big air comp or a DVD with some top riders, i.e. actually invested in the sports they were nicking the imagery from, the snowboard community would cut them a bit of slack.

Essentially what I am saying is these sports are tribal and loyal to there own first and foremost, and do not like being told what to do, wear, eat or how to behave from beyond there sports. Understanding that market is key. It’s interesting also how quickly a company or brand that was seen to being linked positively with an activity can so quickly fall from grace.

In the marketing and sponsorship world, you do expect many investments to only last 3-5 years at the most and then the car, cosmetics or drinks company moves on, but if done well, the heritage of their investment lives on. Especially if they leave some thing positive at the grass roots level.

This I suppose brings me to the HUB of the story. For years (6 to be exact) Glen Tress near Peebles has been the centre of Scottish Mountain biking, hundreds of thousands of people have ridden there, making it the most successful cross country MTB venue in Europe. This is in no small part is due to the fact that the people running the facilities were bikers them selves. They are part of the tribe; in fact they are centre of that particular universe. Every regular rider at Glen Tress knows Emma and Tracy and has seen them work there butts off to build what is now to be taken from them and the mountain bike community they have build, served and educated. The rub is that the founders of the biggest mountain bike venue in the UK have not managed to win the tender to continue the lease at the HUB. The outcry amongst riders across the UK has been huge, the loyalty of the sport to its own heartening. The backlash towards the Forestry Commission is visceral and heartfelt, if they are evicted, of course people will continue to ride there, after all the trails are good. But the damage will be done; the Forestry Commission in one fell swoop will have gone from soft fluffy benevolent benefactor to an insensitive government quango. It’s a major PR blunder and it will do irreparable harm to their brand and development aspirations. Their desire to develop leisure facilities will be seen buy the MTB community to be flawed and ultimately to be not about health, and fun but money. I also would not fancy being the new café managers for the first few months of the lease; it might be just a little colder in the café on a winter’s morn.

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