Inspiration, Exploration and Consideration: How Advertisers Can Win the Cycling Race

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Cycling is big business. It has moved out of the shadows as a niche, slightly mystifying activity into a new era of sporting success and infrastructure investment.

Cycling is now the world’s biggest sporting goods sector, according to research specialists NPD Group, with more than US$46b in global sales. Like any other community, however, cyclists look to trusted brands to provide advice and product recommendations.

Immediate Media Co is the UK’s leading special interest content and platform company. It only plays in sectors where it can feed the passions of super-engaged consumers. Where it can create brands those consumers trust, and where that trust gives them permission to develop new consumer offers.

Cycling is a major focus for Immediate – we reach over 8.5 million active cyclists every month, three million of whom are in the UK, where the cycling sector is still in growth. Our insight tells us this growth is driven by three things: sporting success (Wiggins, Froome, the 2012 Olympic legacy); investment in infrastructure (Cycling Superhighways, ‘Boris’ Bikes and public bike racks); and the government-backed salary sacrifice scheme, Cycle to Work.

All of these factors are encouraging more people to ride. In fact, 3.8m people in the UK ride at least once a month (Mintel), driving annual cycling sales above £1b in the past year (Mintel again), meaning a third more new bicycles are sold each year in the UK than new cars. And this is a highly affluent and discerning audience. For instance, 83% of the readers of Cycling Plus, the UK’s best-selling cycling magazine, are ABC1; and 73% of visitors to the world’s biggest bike reviews website, BikeRadar, are happy to pay a significant premium for quality goods.

We engage with this audience in three ways: inspiration, exploration and consideration – giving everyone a reason to cycle, pointing them towards the great outdoors and helping them buy the right kit to fuel their passion.

Native advertising and sponsorship across our multiple platforms, including premium magazines, apps, web and video play an increasingly important part in our offering to non-endemic brands. Because we understand cyclists (in fact, in the case of our cycling division, we are cyclists), we’re able to deliver brands credibility through relevant association with authoritative content. Cyclists and cycling fans don’t want to see brands buying their way into their sport, they appreciate companies that support and nurture cycling, and enable them to get more from their sport. That’s where we can help.

As the media landscape shifts from broadcasting to general interest audiences to conversations with communities based around common interests, cycling offers advertisers an upmarket audience, passionate and engaged in their hobby and prepared to spend money on it. As we identified last year with our Generation Wealth research, the ABC1 40+ year olds are growing in number with their consumer spend increasing dramatically. This market is also proving to be a rich source of new cyclists wanting a low impact way of keeping fit.

Testament to the rise of cycling is the popularity of the Adland Cycling Championship, now in its second year. Where ten years ago cycling was seen as the preserve of misunderstood outsiders, it is now a mainstream, even fashionable, pursuit. The Surrey Hills are teeming with company directors and media executives sweating up Box Hill on expensive lumps of carbon. Good luck to all those trying to set the fastest lap this week!

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