Cycling Social Media

News & Results

01/23/2012| 0 comments
by Neil Browne
Cadel Evans got a kick out of surprising Thor Hushovd with the birthday gift of a Geelong Cats jersey. Photo copyright BMC Racing Team.
Cadel Evans got a kick out of surprising Thor Hushovd with the birthday gift of a Geelong Cats jersey. Photo copyright BMC Racing Team.

Cycling Social Media

Social media is part of the marketing strategy in cycling. Who is doing it well?

Social media is part of the marketing strategy in cycling. Who is doing it well?

If you don't know already I'm a fan of social media. The immediate access to the people in the sport - and sometimes the unfiltered views - is great for both the person who is writing about professional cycling as well as for the fan. With the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under in the books we got to see who was on top of their social media game as well as who to "follow" during the season.

The key to an affective social media campaign is to be authentic. RadioShack-Nissan failed with this early on with some obvious team issued plugs from one of their title sponsors. However, they did stream the team's launch from Luxembourg, something that few teams have done. And yes, those of you who follow me on Twitter might have noticed, I did make a few snarky remarks regarding the presentation - but I thought they were deserved.

The announcer failed to do a quick interview with reigning U.S. national road champ Matt Busche. Sure, I know the audience was Luxembourgian, but if you have a national champion on the squad and you're streaming live to the world, it couldn't hurt to spend 20 seconds with the guy and show a little love to North America. Remember, that's where one of the team's title sponsors is located.

Aside from a few opening day gaffes, the RadioShack-Nissan site now looks good. At the launch there was a snafu with the team roster but that's been cleared up. Now the site is filled with video and reports.

Thankfully the very popular Jens Voigt hasn't drunk from the team Kool-Aide yet and is still keeping it real on Twitter. He's updated his followers on his fish tank, tweets from the Santos Tour Down Under and dealing with his six kids. Good stuff.

I know I might get crucified for this next statement - I like the RadioShack-Nissan team kits. It's a clean design and doesn't look like the sponsors' names were blindly thrown onto the jersey - I'm looking at you Vacansoleil-DCM.

Let me take a short detour while I'm talking about cycling kits. If you've been around in this sport you've probably seen some designs that swing widely from the outrageously ugly (remember the Castorama kits?) to a local team that had misspelled the word "peloton" (Team Peleton). However, I tip my hat to the French Division 2 team UV Aube. The blog INRNG wrote about this squad and their sponsorship with a lingerie company. On the front of the jersey is a model highlighting the team sponsor's product. Now that's thinking outside the box! This sport needs more non-endemic sponsors.

Okay, back to my discussion regarding team's social media and stuff...

Team BMC Racing is a squad that has had the social media bull by the horns for a couple of seasons. The team often updates via twitter and Facebook. There's really no way you can't not know what BMC is doing at any time - from racing, training, to signing kits. It really is borderline cyber-stalking and if you're a fan of the team this is exactly what you want.

New to the social media scene is Omega Pharma - Quick-Step. This Belgian squad has jumped on the social media wagon as they have realized how important it is to build a relationship with their fans. As you know they've added an American flavor to the squad with the addition of Levi Leipheimer and bringing Specialized back as an equipment supplier, most notably the bikes and helmets. The site is still in its growing stages and has a basic layout, but I've been told that changes are in the works. If you're a fan of the Quick-Steppers click on the "Fanbase" tab for wall papers and an app lets you post your head onto a team kit, which is a great time killer for those at work. Don't feel restricted to just posting photos of yourself. I photographed my cat's head to see what she would look like in a kit and as I suspected - she looked great.

Garmin-Barracuda gets top marks for engaging in the social media world. Love him or hate him, team director Jonathan Vaughters isn't afraid to tweet a response to someone or engage in a four hour debate, much to the chagrin of the team's public relation people. The team site has all the bells and whistles which are now standard. The only complaint I have is that they should have live streamed their team launch. Hopefully they can fix that for future events. Cycling fans are not content with cell phone videos posted to YouTube the next day.

Of course Team Sky, a team sponsored by a media company, has a sharp looking site. As expected it features the usual team updates, video replays and a tech page for those who want to know how to clean your bike the "Team Sky way." Spoiler alert - they use the sponsor's lube and bike wash on the team's Pinarello bikes.

I spoke to the person who runs the social media of a WorldTour team who told me that while product placement is necessary, there needs to be a way so it isn't artificial (like the RadioShack tweets). Because let's face it, a forced corporate sponsor tweet will turn off people quicker than a cold sore on your date. The flip side of that coin, those products are what keep the teams rolling and sponsors need that return on investment (ROI).

Ultimately the team wants to drive traffic to their site and to the team store to either purchase team issue stuff, or at least get some eyeballs on the sponsor's name. Also they want to create a personality that attracts fans, which taken a step further, leads to consumers of their product. It's the circle of commercialism life - social media draws people to site, people become fans, they purchase goods, sponsor gets a good ROI and they continue to support the squad.

There are several other teams that do a commendable job on the social media front such as Lotto-Belisol for their frequent Twitter updates and Rabobank with their mobile app. I expect other teams to follow suit. Having spoken to a couple of media types I know that if team budgets are increased we'll have live trackers focused on their riders and streaming video for fan updates.

It's a bold new world and technology is taking us up close and personal, whether teams want it or not. I hope mangers are ready.

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