Cycle Marketing Partnerships - Right and Wrong



Brands Go Bike Crazy In NYC



Marketers and PR-folk take note, free bike rides just might be the next “pop-up shop” for their universal ability to lure in the general public and it appears retailers are catching on. Topshop and Whole Foods recently gave their customers more reason to turn to the alternative mode of transportation, with two bike-centric store events held in NYC. 

Over the weekend, Anglophiles everywhere took notice when Topshop rolled out their new bicycle club concept, parking a small fleet of blue beach cruisers (decked out with baskets and cupcake stickers) outside their flagship store and making them available for free daily rental to the public. In exchange for leaving a credit card and signing a liability waiver, would-be cyclists were granted access to a curated experience that included a bike, customized helmet, U-lock and map of Topshop-endorsed destinations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

Another instance of the NYC’s branded bike frenzy was a recent promotion executed by Whole Foods. The healthy-living corporation temporarily offered free pedicab rides around the city. The drivers would take customers anywhere within a ten block radius of the store, making it that much easier to justify purchasing that extra bag of groceries.

And while these recent campaigns have met with success, we need only look to past attempts at co-opting two-wheel culture, such as DKNY’s orange bike debacle  from last year’s fashion week, to note the difference between thoughtful events and PR stunts. Simply picking a trend and forcing it into a brand framework in the hopes that authenticity will shine through rarely works. Instead, focus on adding value to the consumer experience in ways that reinforce pre-existing values and at the end of the day, perhaps your audience will circle on back.



Rounding Up the Orange Bicycles

DKNY bikesThe police hauling off bicycles that they said were illegally chained to city property. (Photo:

Over the last week or so, dozens of brightly orange bicycles have mysteriously appeared, chained to poles and trees, around the city, perplexing some New Yorkers.

Were they a fluorescent variation of the white ghost bike memorials for fallen cyclists?

Had Christo and Jean-Claude shifted their focus from Central Park “gates” to the streets of New York?

Were Critical Mass activists protesting against the police? Was that why the police got busy removing the bikes? No, the Police Department said. The orange bikes were removed because — like some ghost bikes — they were inoperable or chained to sign posts, trees or other city property. (Of course, if this city had more bicycle racks…)

Those who looked closely at the orange bikes found a DKNY logo on the frames, which raised some skepticism that this was nothing more than a commercial marketing stunt during Fashion Week.

But DKNY argues that it was trying to promote bicycling, not its fashion. In response to an inquiry from City Room, the company issued an explanation:

DKNY is working with the mayor’s office to raise awareness of cycling as a healthy and environmentally sound means of transportation around NYC. During Fashion Week (which runs the first week of February), DKNY has placed dozens of bright orange bicycles around the city to get people thinking and talking about bicycles as a healthy and fashionable way to get around the city. DKNY’s marketing team developed the orange bicycle campaign to support the mayor’s office ongoing efforts, in a way that would draw attention to this important initiative.

The fashion company added that it had also pledged money to the Department of Transportation to help with bicycling promotion.

Could the mayor’s office really have sanctioned illegally chaining bikes around the city? City Room inquired at the mayor’s office, which bumped us to Department of Transportation officials, who explained that (as far as they were aware) the bike promotion efforts with DKNY involved bike route maps, not actual bikes.

Or more formally, “We did not have an agreement with DKNY regarding the placement of bicycles,” the agency said in a statement.

The orange bikes had never come up in their discussions.

Legal or illegal, City Room was still trying to decide whether to be offended by the orange bikes as a publicity stunt, in light of the white ghost bikes, but was dissuaded by Carl Larson, an active member of the ghost bike community in Portland, Ore.

As Mr. Larson explained in a lengthy e-mail message:

As far as I’m concerned, it’s less productive to consider DKNY’s orange bikes an insensitive, greenwashing, publicity stunt than to look at them positively. DKNY is riding New York’s new bike wave while contributing to it by putting brightly colored ones on the street, proudly linking their name to them and, at the end of the day, providing every scrapper, freakbike builder, and petty thief with some great materials. If New York’s bike gangs like Black Label and CHUNK666 are worth their salt, I fully expect to see some bright orange parts on their next creations.

In its statement, DKNY added contritely, “We are very sorry if our well-intentioned ‘Explore Your City‘ program offended anyone.”